I'm sorry this took so long today, I have been trying to upload the document since this morning and it just wasn't working for some strange reason.

Chapter 75

Shiori Interlude

Shiori suppressed for the hundredth time that day the need to sigh. Her workers were watching her like hawks and more than once she had already been approached and been told to relax or was given a gentle suggestion to work in her office. It had taken less than two repetitions in earshot of the same table and suddenly Shiori was only to keenly aware of the ninja eyes that were following her. More than once she had already needed to deflect some more or less subtle questions from her clients and if that was a taste of she could expect for the next few months she was sooner rather than later going to lose her temper.

It also made her shudder in horror when she thought of what her husband would do once he realized that as the owner of a teahouse the Chunin Exams would expose her to a wide range of foreign shinobi. What if Kakashi insisted on her staying away from the teahouse because of all those foreign ninja visiting? She darkly promised herself that she would NOT let herself be restricted like that. Especially not from her husband.

In the end her worries turned out to be pretty much redundant, Shiori had apparently assessed and predicted the behavior of the foreign shinobi completely wrong. In the few days between the official arrival of the Chunin hopefuls and the first exam more than one foreign team had wandered into the teahouse only to take one look at the dozens of Konoha shinobi, turn around and leave as fast as possible. A few were brave enough to take some bentos with them but they all looked rather uncomfortable under the close scrutiny of Konoha's military force and left rather hurriedly once they had paid.

Kakashi had laughed, visibly entertained and not even a little bit surprised, when she had rather baffled told him about her observation later that night. The brat.

Anko Interlude

Anko felt as if someone had hit her repeatedly in the solar plexus while she slowly paced in front of the surgery room. Nobody had told her how helpless she would feel the first time one of her ducklings got hurt in a way that couldn't be fixed with a band aid or a quick visit to the medic nin. And of course it had to be Tsukiko, shy, sweet Tsukiko.

Anko sighed and then looked up when the attending medic finally came out of the room.


"For now it looks good, Mitarashi-sensei. Once we are sure that there aren't any further complications she will need some physical therapy but as long as everything goes as expected she should be able to make a full recovery." The women in her early thirties said with a tired smile before she excused herself to attend to her next case.

Finally some good news after that whole debacle.

How the hell had a quick intelligence pick up mission turned into an ambush with five Chunin level and a Jounin level opponent? Anko, who was STILL recovering from her compromised chakra system, had taken care of the Jounin and one of the chunin with some slight difficulties while the other bastards had gone after her brats. Sai and Haku had no problems with their opponents, the boys were already far beyond the level of Genin and had taken out three of the Chunin between them with ease. Even Tsukiko had been able to hold her own against her opponent, until that last moment when the fucker turned out to have an earth affinity and crushed her arm with one of his techniques.

Tsukiko's scream…

Sai and Anko had made quick work of the bastard once they had gotten him away from her little kunoichi while Haku kept Tsukiko stable. With the information safely inside Anko's T&I seals her priorities had shifted to rushing her injured student back to Konoha. Only now that Tsukiko was out of the woods she had a clear enough head to actually work out the implications of the attack, six missing nin so close to Konoha was a bad, bad sign. She would have to report that to the Hokage but first she had to take care of her team.

"Brats?" she asked, turning to her other students.

"Sensei." Haku said tiredly.

Her ice user was leaning against the wall and had his hands folded in a mediative position, probably to recover some of the chakra he had spent to make the journey as painfree as possible for Tsukiko. Sai was standing beside him, expressionless as always but there was an underlining tension in his shoulders that spoke of aggitation.

"Go home, eat something, get some rest. Tsukiko will be out of it for the next ten hours or so. I have to report this incident to the Hokage. I will track you down once that's done."

Haku's expression took on a stubborn edge while his eyes wandered to the operating room in which his teammate was just being finished up, he was clearly reluctant to leave Tsukiko but he kept his silence.

What Anko didn't expect was Sai to speak up, "Are we allowed to return to the hospital before said ten hours are over?"

Anko stared, was the boy actually making progress?

Taking a deep breath, she said, "Explain to me why you feel that way."

Sai now looked a bit unsure, "I… there is some unease in me. I do not feel comfortable with leaving our mission partner without protection while she is helpless."

Anko actually smiled, "Good answer, very well you can come back here before the ten hours are over, but I still want you two to get some sleep and something to eat before that."

"Understood." Sai said, finally relaxing back into his usual stance.

Beside him Haku smiled slightly and nodded in Anko's direction.

"Good. Now scram." Anko ordered.

The kunoichi smiled the whole way from the hospital to the Hokage Tower, even if the injury was traumatizing to Tsukiko and meant that her team wasn't participating in this year's Chunin Exams now Anko had at least the irrefutable proof that the ROOT operatives could get better. Sai was on the best way to become a functional member of society.

Well, a ninja one, and those weren't expected to be all sane anyway.

Kakashi Interlude

"Did you hear anything about Team Anko, sensei? I heard some Chunins gossiping about them being rushed to the hospital. Do you know what happened?" was the first sentence that came out of Sakura's mouth when she entered the house, her face was a bit pale and she was clearly worried.

Kakashi-sensei sighed deeply and ran his hand through his hair, of course at least one of them had heard about that by now. His other students who had been bickering on the couch fell silent and turned to him for further information.

"Yes, their mission went wrong and Tsukiko nearly lost an arm. They won't be participating in the Chunin Exams, so take that into consideration, you now have fewer allies there." He finally said.

"Yes, sensei." Sasuke acknowledged his warning before he gravely asked, "Is Tsukiko going to lose her arm?" there was unease on his face.

"According to Anko, the medics are optimistic that she will recover but there is always the possibility of complications so it is wait and see for now." Kakashi said frankly, better they knew about the possibility of their former classmate losing her arm then giving them false hope.

"We should visit her." Naruto said subdued, "Bring her flowers and such."

Sakura nodded decisively at that, "Yes. I'm going to visit Ino. We may be rivals but she will know what flowers are appropriate… and it might be an opportunity to do some reconnaissance. Is Team 10 participating in the Chunin Exams, sensei?"

Kakashi's lips twitched and he put his head to the side, "Mah Sakura-chan, as you said this is a wonderful opportunity for some recon."

Naruto and Sasuke sweat dropped and Sakura sent an eye roll in his direction. Kakashi sighed happily, there exasperation were so cute.

Sakura Interlude

Reconnaissance about Team 10 was easier than Sakura had expected, Ino hadn't been able to stop herself from bragging about being nominated to the exam and how she was receiving special training from her dad in their clan jutsu. Which was a rather useful piece of information should any of them ever have to face off with Ino. From what she had learned during the years she had practically lived at the Yamanaka main house their mind reading techniques took a lot of concentration and practice to get right and only with age and battle experience they became faster. So as long as they could keep Ino somewhat distracted they could avoid the mind attacks. At least for now.

Visiting Tsukiko in the hospital on the other hand had been two-parts depressing and one-part encouraging. Before this visit Sakura had never really been confronted with the consequences of mission injury quite so harshly. Oh she had known that they happened, the Academy had been thorough in that aspect but seeing Tsukiko lying there, unconscious with her body pumped full with antibiotics and painkillers so that she wouldn't lose her arm… well it was a whole other experience.

What gave Sakura hope were the two occupied chairs beside Tsukiko's bed. Haku and Sai had clearly been with Tsukiko for hours by now, Sai had maybe a dozen or so sketches of a sleeping Tsukiko on his pad and Haku was halfway through sharpening his senbon supply if the two separate piles of sharp needles were any indication.

"How is she?" Naruto asked quietly, Sakura wasn't really surprised by the lack of volume, her teammate could be surprisingly considerate at times.

"She is doing well under the circumstances." Haku answered quietly, "She has been awake twice now but not conscious enough to answer questions."

"What do the medics say?" Sakura prodded gently.

"They are satisfied with her recovering rate." Haku supplied with a relieved smile, "One of the nurses has been showing me how to stimulate the chakra flow in limbs so that I can help Tsuki once she is in the PT phase."

"That's great Haku." Sakura said with a relieved smile.

"PT?" Naruto wanted to know.

"Physical Therapy." Sasuke grunted in answer.

"How is Anko-sensei dealing with it?" Sakura finally asked tentatively, after all Anko had only been made a Jounin sensei a few months ago.

Sai didn't say anything but Haku grimaced slightly, "Badly, I think she blames herself for her injury even though she could have had no idea about the missing nin we encountered… and that's another thing, we encountered those missing nin close to Konoha… uncomfortably so. Anko-sensei has been mostly in the T&I headquarter since we returned with a few short stops here… I don't think she actually slept yet."

Sakura turned her head to her teammates with an unspoken question, both of them nodded readily, so she turned back to their fellow Konoha shinobi.

"We are going to mention it to Kakashi-sensei, maybe he can do something about that."

"Thank you." Haku said with clear relieve on his face, beside him Sai nodded in acknowledgement before his eyes drifted back to his sketch block.