TITLE: Code Hanami
TIMELINE/SPOILERS/WARNINGS: Rated T for language & suggestive stuff (wohoo!). AU, non-massacre, no coup d'état plans. Therefore, the Uchiha clan is alive and well, and Itachi is still an ANBU shinobi. Apparently Shisui isn't in ANBU, but in this story he is. I'm trying my best to avoid angst and extreme ooc in this fic.
DISCLAIMER: Masashi Kishimoto owns Naruto and all related characters, etc etc etc. I'm not earning any sort of money or goods from this fanfic. Who the hell with a right mind would do that, anyway?
SUMMARY: With the help of sheer luck and an experimental genjutsu, Sakura managed to pass her ANBU exam. Unfortunately, her ANBU mentor was getting on her nerves in more ways than one.
A/N: I mentioned in 'Assumptions are dangerous things' that I've been working on a short, multi-chap fic, and here it is. I'll probably be releasing every chapter every two or three days. No serious plot (but then again I don't have any fic that has one) and it's just 5 or six chapters long. AND I swear it's penned down and finished, I just need to edit them all. :D Oh, and if anyone gets confused (unbelievable, but there are some who really do), the timeline alternates from present to sometime in the past, starting a little more than a week ago.
[REVISED September 12, 2014]
CHAPTER 01 – Flight
The forest outside of Konoha was a blur of shades of green and brown with the occasional streaks of daylight blue seen through the dense canopy. A red-clad medic sped through branches and boughs of trees, driven by both panic and desperation like hell was snapping at her heels. If any shinobi from her village saw her – and most especially her pursuer— they would easily understand her distress.
'Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, why the hell are you so slow— run faster, you idiot!'
More chakra was sent to her feet, but Sakura knew it was fruitless and she expected her death any second now.
'Wait—' she shook her head. 'I can't die— that would make him a rogue nin!'
But nonetheless she knew she was in deep trouble, and she was sure no amount of apologies and pleas would save her.
'Why the hell did I even apply for ANBU? Being jounin was just fine!'
The image of Naruto, Sai, and Sasuke— all heavily bandaged and connected to an IV— flashed across her mind. Sakura gritted her teeth.
'I will NOT let that happen again!'
O O O
"You should get some rest as well, Sakura."
Said nin gave a tired smile to her senpai, Shizune, who was in charge of healing Sakura's three teammates.
"I'll head out home a little later," Sakura gritted her teeth in an effort to stop a yawn. "I know you've already made them stable, but… I just want to see them wake up, first…"
Shizune patted Sakura's shoulder consolingly.
"Alright," she said in understanding. "But please do get some rest. You can occupy the last bed."
"Thank you, Shizune-senpai."
Sakura observed her three teammates once more. As much as fatigue was taking over her body, she was too afraid to close her eyes, fearing that this may be the last time she'd see her friends breathing.
The four of them had been sent on an A-rank mission that had turned into S-rank when the criminal they were after turned out to be one of the most wanted nin in all of the shinobi countries. He had the power of storm release, and even Sakura was forced to take on the offense and fight until, by some miracle, Naruto regained consciousness long enough to strike a deadly blow of Rasengan on the missing-nin and Sasuke and Sai finished him off with a mighty swing of their blades.
Relief had flooded her when Sakura managed to haul their asses back to Konoha— with the additional help of her summon, the great slug Katsuyu. After the hurdle that was making sure her three teammates' injuries had been attended to, Sakura profusely thanked her mentor the Godaime Hokage Tsunade, for teaching her how to summon Katsuyu; and the Godaime's assistant Shizune, for doing her best to help her injured friends.
'This is unacceptable,' Sakura thought in self-directed anger. 'I can't let this happen again.'
She was one of the top medic-nins in Konoha— almost on par with her senpai, Shizune, who was second only to the Godaime Tsunade— but clearly after this mission it wasn't enough.
After twelve hours of her waiting the three unconscious patients finally stirred awake, albeit for only a short time. Sakura headed for the Administrative office at the Academy to speak with her mentor.
"ANBU?" Tsunade said with a raised brow. "Are you sure you want that?"
"Yes," Sakura nodded. Her fists were clenched tightly at her sides. "Not as a regular ANBU, though, but a reserve just like Shizune-senpai."
Sakura's medical knowledge and expertise were almost on equal terms with Shizune, but the latter had more experience on the battlefield and she was the only medical jutsu specialist able to go on ANBU-related missions.
"I'm warning you," Tsunade said as she tapped a finger on Sakura's ANBU application letter. "It's a hard road to take."
Sakura clenched her fists tighter. "I'll go through hell and back if it means ensuring the safety and survival of those I want to protect."
Tsunade beamed at her protégé's resolve, and with a wave of her hand, an ANBU appeared before the Hokage's desk.
"Inform the 'Five' about Haruno Sakura's application for ANBU reserve," the Godaime said as she handed a small scroll to the ANBU. "Her examinations start in a week."
With another wave of the Hokage's hand, the ANBU was gone. Sakura gave a low bow to her mentor, who dismissed her with a grin.
"I hope you do better than those blockhead teammates of yours," she said. "They only passed one out of the three tests they had to take.
A week passed, indeed, and thankfully Naruto, Sai, and Sasuke have recovered fast enough to be able to accept another mission. They were mildly surprised as they found out that they're heading out with Hatake Kakashi— their former team captain and sensei from their genin years and most of their ninja life— instead of Sakura. But as Sakura had sometimes forgone missions in order to help out more in the hospital or for medical trips outside Konoha, they didn't think anything of it and bade their usual 'see you again' farewells.
Sakura's first test was held at the Konoha Intelligence Division building under the careful watch of Morino Ibiki, Head of Konoha's Interrogation Force. Sakura didn't find any problems in answering the test questions whether orally or in written form. When the exam was over, Morino informed her that her second test would take place in two days. He didn't say whether Sakura passed or not, but the medic-nin was confident that she was at least 90% correct. She wasn't the most intelligent of their genin batch barring Shikamaru for nothing.
Her second exam was much, much harder. This time it was held in an underground training area, and the Godaime Hokage, the Jounin Commander Nara Shikaku, the ANBU Head, and two ANBU captains observed her as she sparred with three ANBU one by one in order to test her ninjutsu, taijutsu, and genjutsu skills, not to mention her endurance, strength, and agility. She fared well in genjutsu despite not having many techniques, did spectacular in taijutsu, but failed ninjutsu due to not having any elemental attacks to help her fight. At the end of the day, Sakura felt like she'd just been to an A-rank mission three times in a row and Shizune had to drop her off at her apartment as she could barely keep her head up.
Finally she was on her last test, and Sakura was now determined more than ever to pass.
"Your final test is about information-gathering," Tsunade explained as her student stood before her desk with the same look she had upon submitting her application letter just a little more than a week ago. "Each ANBU has a code that is only for the purpose of this test. You have to get at least one code, as well as the true identity of the ANBU who owns it."
Sakura frowned. Get a code from an ANBU as well as that person's name? She knew Kakashi, Sai, and Yamato were all ANBU at some point, but the three of them weren't active in that division anymore. Only Shizune and Tsunade were allowed to heal the active ones. There was one other possible person she could target who, coincidentally, was put in her charge at the hospital not too long ago, but as it was hopeless she might as well search for another one.
"You may use whatever method necessary," Tsunade continued. "But you should be warned that these people aren't allowed to give the code under any circumstances, and they will not be above chasing you down and making sure you don't give it to me on time."
"I understand," Sakura answered with a grim nod.
"And lastly," her mentor said as if she had read Sakura's thoughts. "Only active members of ANBU are included."
'Aaaand there goes my top three choices,' Sakura thought ruefully. 'There's really no easy route in the shinobi road, huh?'
"You have five days to complete your mission," Tsunade said. "And I'm the only person who can receive the code and the identity of its owner."
"I understand," Sakura let out a sigh of relief. At least she was given several days. "Thank you."
"You're free from hospital duties and off the mission assignment list until the duration of your last test has passed," Tsunade said with a confident grin as she leaned back on her seat. "See you around."
"Good luck, Sakura," Shizune smiled from beside the Hokage, and Sakura felt her determination swell even more in her chest.
O O O
A distinct chakra signature several meters behind her alerted Sakura, and she willed her legs to kick even harder. She was finally near to finishing this last test, and she'd damn herself for eternity for failing at the very last second.
'Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,' her chanting started once more. 'Why did you have to pick HIM, of all people?'
A kunai grazed her arm, and Sakura yelped as she evaded another one.
'He's not seriously trying to kill me, is he?' She thought in panic. 'B-But we're from the same village! He can't do that!'
Three more headed in her direction, and one grazed her other arm. Not too far ahead she could already make out the red roof of Konohagakure's gates.
'Oh please, oh please, just a few more minutes and I'm in shishou's office—'
A frustrated cry reverberated in the forest as thin strings wrapped themselves around Sakura's body, managing to clip her dominant arm by her side and snap her legs together. She fell bodily on the ground several meters below, and it was a miracle she managed to maneuver her fall and land on a thick bush.
'Shit, shit, shit—'
Quickly pulling out her tantou from its sheath strapped on her back, Sakura undid the wires and carried on with her sprint. She had felt fear in many of her missions— she wasn't inhuman, afterall— but this one definitely earned its place on the top along with the few S-rank missions she's been in.
A fire jutsu was sent her way, and Sakura winced as it singed her apron-skirt.
'Why the hell do these people even exist?'
Gritting her teeth and clenching her fists tighter, Sakura hoped that her pursuer would give up the chase once they reached the village.
'Right. With him coming from THAT clan, it's more likely for Naruto will be able to refrain from eating ramen for a whole week, even instant ones.'
O O O
Three days have passed, and Sakura was at a loss on how to get the blasted code that she needed. She kept a vigilant stake-out at the village marketplace, looking for anyone who was most likely an ANBU operative. Her searches were fruitless, though, and her investigations didn't give her any clues as to how to identify an ANBU op, save for the tattoo on their left or right upper arms. But people still wore sleeves even during spring, and it would be stupid to think an ANBU would reveal his or her tattoo to the public while not masked.
'Damn it. Maybe I should ask help from Hinata or Neji with their Byakugan? Would that even work?'
Sakura sighed. No one had told her she couldn't use any outside help, but she knew very well that as this was HER test, it was most likely they'd expect her to get the code on her own.
Besides, no one else actually knew of her application save for the people who had seen her during her ANBU tests. If she told Naruto, he would flip and wouldn't stop bugging her in his worry until she gave in— though there's no way she would— and quit her application. Sasuke would most likely think she wouldn't pass, although he wouldn't have the nerve to say it out loud as Sakura had pummelled him to the ground in more ways than one on several occasions that he took his 'girls are weak' belief too far.
She had tried, of course, to get some help from the three former ANBU who were punted off her list for technical reasons. Even a little clue to an ANBU's real identity would greatly help. She had immediately cornered Kakashi at his apartment as soon as she found out that Team 7 and Sai had come back from their mission.
"Ah, sorry Sakura," Kakashi had said with a smile as he looked up from his green-covered adult novel. "You know I can't give you any information about something as highly classified as ANBU."
Pissed and not ready to give up, Sakura pushed down his book and leaned closer to Kakashi. She didn't wear a low-cut shirt and forgo her med-nin apron for nothing. She knew very well how much she didn't like tactics like this, but hell, she was desperate, and it was Kakashi anyway. At least she knew and trusted him.
Kakashi looked mildly surprised for a moment as Sakura straddled him on the couch, and he gave her one of his usual creased-eye smiles.
"You know, you shouldn't start things you know you can't finish," he said quietly before disappearing in a poof of white smoke.
"A clue would have been enough, damnit!" Sakura roared as she punched down the couch into bits and pieces of wooden and stuffing debris.
Although she wasn't one to destroy books as she was an avid reader of text, Sakura let out a satisfied smirk as she observed the rubble that was Kakashi's bookshelf and tattered paper that used to be his Icha Icha collection. Hell, it shouldn't be too much of a problem for him; he seemed to have extra copies of those things everywhere as he always had a replacement even after the combined efforts of Sai, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura destroyed his latest perusal.
Satisfied, Sakura left for the person who had temporarily replaced Kakashi as Team 7's captain when the Copy-nin was hospitalized following an S-rank mission.
She had tried the 'Ah, I was just joking' tactic in asking Yamato for help, but one darkened, blank stare from him and Sakura understood very well why Naruto preferred to stay on the former ANBU's good side. Usually she ignored Yamato's 'threat' face, but now that it had been directed straight at her and only her, she gave a harried excuse and left with a nervous laugh.
Bargaining with Sai should have been expected to be hard. The former ANBU ROOT operative had temporarily replaced Sasuke after the latter's confrontation with Orochimaru left him hospitalized for several weeks, and despite their initial dislike for the guy because of his lack of tact, Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke had become friends with him, especially when it was clear that he really wanted to learn about emotions and bonds so he could experience them as well like any other human should.
But Sai still held fast to the ways of a shinobi, and Sakura had to gather all her wits to stop herself from strangling the perpetually pale nin just so he would spill even at least one name.
"Do they know about your application?" He asked after Sakura deflated and took a seat beside him. Sakura picked one of the senbei he had been snacking on.
"Don't tell them yet, will you?" She said as she chewed on the salty rice cracker. "I'm not worried much about Sasuke, but Naruto will be all over the place trying to make me stop."
"He is very protective of his friends," Sai said as he took a sip from his tea. "And from what I can see, he's most especially protective of you, that chicken-head, and Kakashi-senpai."
Sakura smirked at Sai's namecall for her Uchiha teammate. If she had been her genin self, she would have sent the nin beside her flying with a broken nose. But now that her crush had receded, she only regarded their silent teammate as a close friend somewhat akin to a brother. The thought of her fawning all over the younger Uchiha clan heir always made her cringe, and she did her best to push it back in the recesses of her memory. Sai and Naruto calling the guy names seemed to help greatly in overcoming her bouts of self-ridicule.
"Despite him always getting angry at you, he'll also protect you if need be. I would, too." Sakura said as she smiled at Sai. "You're also a friend of ours."
It was subtle, but Sai nonetheless had a small, embarrassed smile.
"I'll see you around, then," Sakura said as she stood up from her seat. "Dinner at the usual place?"
"I'll inform Dickless and Chicken-head."
And so the days have passed with Sakura's insides getting more and more hollowed out. She briefly considered THAT one ANBU who she actually knew, but she'd rather hunt for a stranger than ask help from him. For one she had grown an annoyance at the guy for giving her such a hard time as a medic, and she knew very well that he was one of the toughest shinobi Konoha ever had.
Sakura could barely get some sleep as she feared losing the chance to be an ANBU, and during the fourth night, in her desperation, she waited until she saw an ANBU coming home from a mission. She tried to trap the nin, but she found herself nearly murdered and she was forced to inform the ANBU that she was an applicant. The female special op let out a chuckle, and after a dismissive wave, she disappeared.
Due to the relief that she wasn't killed, Sakura resignedly went back to her apartment as she didn't want another of that chilling experience. She was completely back to zero, and she was starting to feel sick as tomorrow was already her deadline.
O O O
Her feet didn't make any noise as Sakura flew over the roofs, a string of curses hissing through her lips as she wracked her brains for any ninjutsu she could use against her pursuer.
'Damn it!' Her cry of frustration resounded in her head. 'I really should start learning elemental ninjutsu.'
But even if she knew some, Sakura knew very well she couldn't do it in the village— not with civilians right in her immediate vicinity. That would be defeating her purpose of being a medic and a ninja that protects her home village and country.
She felt her pursuer's chakra shift from behind her, but her body didn't move fast enough. She thanked kami that the eyes she met were obsidian black, and as relief passed through her like a cold shower Sakura swung a kunai infront of her. It didn't matter that it only met air as long as the road ahead was cleared.
Her small hope was dashed, though, as she felt a hand grab her by the back of her shirt and hurl her down at an alleyway. She was clearing her head from the fall when she was turned to her back, and it only took a split-second for her to realize that she was doomed.
Three small tomoes spun around inside a pair of crimson eyes.
However, those weren't the only thing red in the alleyway.
"Kuchiyose no jutsu!"
Sakura quickly looked away from the danger infront of her very eyes and formed a one-handed ram seal. It didn't matter that her blood was all over the place— all she could think about was succeeding.
"Katsuyu-sama!" She said in urgency as a small white slug with a blue stripe on its back appeared on her leg where her self-inflicted injury was. She was only a small copy, but that was all that Sakura needed. "Please tell shishou—Uchiha Itachi, code: Hanami—"
A hand grabbed her throat, but Sakura managed to concentrate her chakra on her hand seal once more and, in a curtain of blue-white smoke, the slug summon disappeared.
Sakura let out a derisive laugh.
"T-Too bad I can't dispose of my own body, like ANBU are supposed to do when caught by an enemy…" she said with a triumphant sneer.
Uchiha Itachi didn't find anything funny, though, as his quiet mask of displeasure loomed just mere inches from hers in the darkness of the alley. Without another word, he formed the same one-handed ram seal— his other hand never left her throat— and Sakura closed her eyes to prepare for the scene that was to come.
O O O
Sakura stared at the comatosed chuunin stretched out the ground before her. His face was deep red, and he was breathing hard and weakly calling out for a 'Sumire'. He was showing obvious symptoms of a fever, but knowing the person who had pleaded for her to check up on him, the medic steeled herself for the worst.
"Alright, Anko-san," She said. "What happened to this kid?"
Another chuunin behind Anko winced, and the specialist jounin tried to avoid Sakura's 'what-the-hell-did you-do-this-time' glare.
"I-I don't know what you're talking about, Sakura," Anko said with a nervous laugh. "I think he's got a fever and—"
"Were you trying a new jutsu on him?" Sakura said with a sigh. The chuunin behind Anko whimpered and looked like he wanted to disappear through the thicket of trees behind him.
"Well, you see," Anko tried to laugh it off as if it was just a harmless joke. "I heard an interesting genjutsu from Kurenai. It's supposed to expose the victim to his or her biggest weaknesses, whatever that may be. And…"
"I thought of improving it," Anko said excitedly. "Can you imagine? Putting your enemy in a genjutsu that will give the person so much pleasure that he or she wouldn't want to snap out of it! That should give you more time to finish the job and slit the enemy's throat! Much, much more effective than making them suffer seeing their fears or weaknesses— it's already been done too much."
Sakura's brows twitched. So THAT'S why the chuunin kept calling out for a 'Sumire'. "Anko-san, what do you mean by 'so much pleasure'?"
"Oh come on, you're a big girl now," The woman said with a wave of her hand and a smirk. "You know what it means! Plus with this genjutsu, you don't have to deal with seduction tactics anymore— just let the magic happen in the target's mind, baby!"
Sakura didn't even bother to stop herself as her eyes rolled. She turned to the chuunin cowering behind Anko. "I take it that he's not under it?"
"Hiro-kun? Nah." Anko replied. "I was going to test it on him, too, but he looks like he's never going to snap out of it like this other one. Hormonal teenagers…" She added with a huff and a smirk. "I was going to ask your other teammate, that weird fellow."
"Yeah, but he's out on a mission, I heard. I needed someone who could control their urges very well, and I was gonna look for an ANBU but oh well. I just grabbed the closest person to me at the time."
"And unfortunately, you don't know how to snap the kid out of it," Sakura said dryly.
"Err, yeah," Anko said uncomfortably. Then she shook it away with a manic grin. "But isn't this amazing? If it's perfected, it may be even stronger than the damn sharingan hypnosis! Who would want to wake up from their fantasy?"
"Anyway," Sakura said evenly. "I think we should ask for special help here. Experimental jutsus are always dangerous. We should ask Kurenai-sensei or Inoichi-san—"
"Uh," Anko cut the medic off. "Can't we keep this to ourselves?"
One of Sakura's brows rose. "Well, it's not exactly illegal to test out jutsus on people especially during training, provided there's no actual intent to kill or permanently incapacitate that person..."
"Yyyyyeeeah… but I'm actually currently banned on experimental jutsu after last month's mishap, so…"
Sakura let out another heavy sigh.
"I'll see what I can do, then," she said, and Anko let out a cheer. "But if I can't get him to snap out of it in an hour, I have to ask for Shizune-senpai's help."
"O-Okay…" Anko said nervously.
"And no more experiments!" Sakura shouted as Anko tried to sneak away. "Or I'll definitely tell Tsunade-shishou!"
O O O
Sakura was dropped unceremoniously on a wooden floor, and as she glanced up at the great doors before her she felt her nerves getting into her entire being. Surely they'd consider this one a success?
"Get your asses in here!" Tsunade's voice barked through the door.
The guy who looked very much like he wanted to murder Sakura went on ahead, and Sakura made an extra effort of dusting herself before following inside. Shizune smiled at her in greeting before standing beside the Hokage. Tsunade was in her usual seat behind her massive desk, and Katsuyu— or rather, the small version of the great slug— was beside her, silent. The two council elders Mitokado and Utatane silently flanked Tsunade and Shizune, while Nara Shikaku, Morino Ibiki, and the ANBU Head studied Sakura as they stood at the right side of the desk facing her. They must be the 'Five' the Godaime had mentioned when Sakura's application was accepted.
It was subtle, but with her senses heightened at the tension of her final test's outcome, Sakura was able to feel the slight disturbance in Itachi's chakra flow. She would have to thank Hinata for teaching her about reading chakra flows in a person's body even without the use of Byakugan or Sharingan.
"Uchiha Itachi," Tsunade said as she leaned back on her chair. "Code: Hanami. Is this correct?"
If this was a normal day, Sakura would love to see the irritation on the genius of the Uchiha clan's face. Aside from the fact that the Uchihas were generally known to be stuck-up elitists who gave the Godaime— as well as the past Hokages— a hard time, Sakura was aware of the fact that the elder of the clan's heirs was highly prideful, and he didn't accept any mistakes from anyone, much more so from himself. How many times had she heard Sasuke praise his 'nii-san'?
"Yes, Godaime-sama," The male beside her answered. Sakura bit down the grin threatening to show itself on her face as her shishou smirked.
"Care to share to us what tactic you used, Sakura?" The most powerful person in Konoha asked. The student knew as well how much Tsunade wanted to torture the Uchihas while she could.
O O O
"Your chakra flow is stable," Sakura said as she checked the poor chuunin's vital stats. She gave Anko a short, pointed look before helping her latest patient get on his feet. "Is there anything else that is bothering you right now?"
The embarrassed chuunin who couldn't manage to stand up straight quickly shook his head.
"Erm, c-can I take my leave, please?" He said as he avoided looking at anyone in the eyes.
"So long as you don't need anything from a medic, then you're free to go," Sakura said.
The chuunin quickly left, leaving Sakura glaring at Anko.
"Great," she said. "You may have scarred him now."
"Nah, he'll get over it," Anko said. "Wish I could test it out on any of those Uchihas, though. It's hard to determine the jutsu's effectiveness if I don't find a decent test subject."
Realizing her slip-up, Anko cringed and cautiously glanced at Sakura, who was staring at Anko with a look of comprehension on her face. She jumped as Sakura grabbed her arm and leaner closer.
"I promise I won't tell anyone about what had happened and about the genjutsu," Sakura whispered. "So long as you teach me how to do it, Anko-sensei."
"Whoa, what's gotten into you?" Anko said curiously.
"I have a deadline coming up, and your jutsu may just help me," Sakura said, still refusing to let go of the older woman. "Teach me, and I'll forget everything that just happened."
Finding a sure, clean way out of her mess, Mitarashi Anko proceeded to lay out the genjutsu's basics to Sakura. Fifteen minutes later, the younger kunoichi staked out at a training ground outside Konoha's walls that Sasuke had mentioned one time was a place where his brother liked to train alone.
'Good, he's here,' Sakura said as she saw with relief that her target, Uchiha Itachi, was unguarded and actually sleeping. 'Wait— seriously? Is really sleeping?'
Remembering Sasuke's words once more, Sakura figured his brother had his own training ground so he could relax even a little bit, far from the confines of the Uchiha clan and the village he's responsible for. Sakura never really thought about the burden of being a clan head's heir, especially as Shikamaru, Chouji, and Ino never said anything negative about their extra responsibilities. Hinata had some issues with her father years back, but after she managed to convince him that she was worthy as the heir because of her strong drive to succeed, she never got stressed out or tired from being the heir.
'Or maybe he just likes the quiet?'
Suppressing her chakra until it was untraceable— or at least she hoped it was, even to an ANBU— Sakura approached the Uchiha heir's figure cautiously. She only had one shot at this, and if she failed because of her carelessness she wouldn't be able to forgive herself.
She could barely contain her excitement as she finally kneeled beside the Uchiha prodigy whose chakra flow and breathing hadn't changed at all.
'This is it,' Sakura clamped her mouth shut in fear of making even the smallest sound. She swiftly performed the sixteen hand seals needed for Anko's special genjutsu. 'Uchiha Itachi, for once cooperate with your medic, will you?'
O O O
"I think it's a matter best kept between the two of us," Sakura said with a smirk that matched her mentor's.
The Godaime hummed with glee and then turned to the five other people around her.
"Well, what do you think?" She asked. "There wasn't any rule that forbade her to send her answer through a summon."
"There's still the fact that she was captured by the enemy," Mitokado, one of the two council elders, said as he adjusted his glasses.
"She gave Katsuyu her headband, though," Shikaku said as Tsunade laid out a red band with a metal plate bearing Konoha's symbol on it. "Haruno, take out everything from inside your packs."
The medic-jounin emptied her medical pack and weapons pack on the Godaime's desk, and after a thorough inspection by Shikaku Nara and Ibiki Morino, they were all satisfied that the head band was the only identifiable mark of Sakura's home village.
"That injury," Tsunade said as she pointed at Sakura's bloodied leg. "Who made that?"
"I did," Sakura answered with a small voice. She could sense her mentor getting ready to reprimand her for her recklessness. "I had to keep myself from falling into a genjutsu and summon Katsuyu-sama at the same time."
"Uchiha," the woman turned to the person beside Sakura. "Is this true?"
"… Yes, Godaime-sama."
"Hm. Despite her falling into the enemy's hands, she did manage to complete her mission," Tsunade crossed her arms and leaned back on her seat. "I say she passes, but as she's my student and I'm sure some hard-headed sticks will say I'm biased... What do you all say?" She turned to the rest of the people inside the room.
"I have no complaints," Nara Shikaku said. "It would be great to have another medical ninjutsu specialist in the ANBU."
"She has perfected her first test when others could barely scrape by," Morino Ibiki said. "Add to that the results of her second and third tests, I agree with the Hokage's decision."
Sakura glanced hopefully at the two council elders.
"Yes, she has performed exceptionally during her first qualifying exam," Utatane spoke first. "But barely made it through her second one. Being captured by the enemy is another point against her, but I commend her for her determination to see things through until the end. I say she passes but recommend she be put under probation."
"I hold the same opinion and suggestion," Mitokado followed. "Had she been an enemy, no doubt Uchiha-san would have killed her even before she could complete her mission."
"So," Tsunade said as she tapped a finger on her desk. Her irritation was showing through her frown. "Three passes against two for probation. How about you, Uchiha?"
As much as she wanted to, Sakura didn't dare glance at Uchiha Itachi. She knew very well that he wasn't pleased on being tricked and having failed to stop her from completing her mission, and she wasn't going to jeopardize herself by making the prideful Uchiha even sorer.
"I recommend her for immediate ANBU training," The Uchiha clan heir answered. "In the past year she is the only applicant who managed to finish and pass all three qualifying exams, and it would do the village best to have another medic-nin ready for ANBU missions."
Sakura stared at the Uchiha she had just outwitted. She expected him to have her on probation at the most, but for him to say she passed was unbelievable, and when she glanced over at her mentor she found that she wasn't the only one taken aback by the Uchiha's decision.
"Well, then," Tsunade said as she placed a big, black stamp over Sakura's ninja registration that read 'Re-classify'. "Haruno Sakura, from now on you will start your training as an ANBU, and will be inducted when your ANBU mentor sees fit. You will answer to no one but the Hokage, and you will accept any mission delegated to you. Under no circumstances are you to refuse the Hokage's orders, and secrecy of the mission and the ANBU is absolute."
Excitement and relief flooding her exhausted self, Sakura gave everyone a low bow in her gratitude.
"You are all dismissed!"
Sakura gave another deep bow for her mentor before hurrying outside. She badly wanted to tell Naruto and Sasuke about the good news despite knowing their reactions against it, but as she was forbidden to share anything ANBU-related to an outsider, she had to keep her mouth shut. And so, she satisfied herself in just imagining her friends' faces if they found out about her new rank.
... to be continued ...
Oh dear. -snigger-
Reviews, comments, and bursts of fangirling squee are definitely most welcome. :D