Sayuri Haruno closed the door behind her with a sigh, and squeezed her eyes shut. For decades she had kept her dojutsu a secret, fearing the consequences of it's reveal. She took every little precaution to avoid being under suspicion; she ruthlessly made herself more pragmatic just so she could have perfect control over her emotions; she even kept a keen eye on her close family members and subordinates and made sure none of them ever knew the truth. But now, her decades of planning and precautions were thrown out of the window just because of a slithery little snake who coveted the very eyes she hated the most.

She had known that the truth would come out one day, but never in her wildest imaginations had she thought that it would come out in this way. While the best case scenario would've been for the truth to be exposed after her death, she had still prepared countermeasures in case something went wrong -as it always does. Her plan had counted on a fail-safe Tobirama-sensei had left for her (as a way out in case her situation got exposed in the future), as well as a favour the Head of the Uchiha Clan owed her when she had taken in Obito after his paternal Grandmother's death. However, after the massacre the second factor was rendered useless since Fugaku was dead now, and she was the interim Uchiha Clan Head now -well, until Sasuke Uchiha comes of age (or becomes Jonin, whichever comes first) and officially inherits the title from her. She didn't think she could get out of this mess with only her former Sensei's fail-safe as her only backing -especially when no one on the Konoha Council would take her side. Gods, this was so unfair.

The worst thing was, she couldn't even push the blame on anyone else- let alone Sakura- for landing her in this mess. Her granddaughter was already going through enough mental anguish for her to add her own -what with the trauma of having her sharingan ripped out, and the disruption to her mental connection with Obito. That means that this fuck up was all on her own head.

"Shit." She cursed under her breath as she pressed her fingers against her temple. She took a few deep breaths to calm her wavering emotions.

No, there's no point in drowning in regrets. What's done is done. The only thing she could do at present was to make sure that her past decisions don't become stumbling blocks in Sakura's path as a ninja. She cannot let her granddaughter be burdened by her mistakes.

So, when she opened her eyes a few minutes later, her jade green eyes flashed with a hint of cool determination and her lips pressed into a line.

-And that was the scene one Kakashi Hatake -the Jonin-Sensei of Team Seven- walked right into when he ended up at the medic bay of the Central Tower. Somehow, his plans of barging into the medic bay and demanding answers from his cute little genin got derailed because of one terrifying Head of the Konoha Hospital.

"Ah, just in time." The older woman honest to god purred the moment she saw him, and Kakashi felt a shiver of terror run down his spine. He stomped down his fight-or-flight instincts -which was silly, because why would he feel the urge to flee from a fellow shinobi of the leaf?!- and opened his mouth to ask something, only to be cut off by her sudden action.

"Wha-?" Kakashi stared in bewilderment as the older woman beckoned him to follow her, and started walking away. Confused, he asked cautiously, "Sayuri-sama?"

"Kakashi Hatake, we need to have a talk." The grave tone in her voice made his shoulders tense, and with a final, desperate glance at the closed doors of the medic bay, he followed the older woman with a sigh.

After all, there must be a reason why the Head of Konoha's Hospital -who happens to be Sakura's grandmother- wanted to have a chat with him, especially at such a time. He had a feeling that it might be about his cute, little genins.

He sighed. Seriously, what new trouble had his brats got themselves into this time?!

"Sakura and her teammates were attacked by Orochimaru in the Forest of Death." Sayuri explained to Kakashi the moment they arrived in the privacy of her make-shift office in the Central Tower of the Forest of Death.

Kakashi's mind turned blank at her words. "...What." He asked in disbelief. "Surely you jest, Sayuri-sama." Kakashi chuckled nervously, wondering if the older woman was pulling his leg or something. because surely, that can't be true, right….? Why would Orochimaru target his students? "Orochimaru…. he couldn't possibly-"

"I am not joking, Kakashi Hatake. I am only telling what your genins have informed me, and after taking in their injuries I have confirmed it to be true." Sayuri said sharply. "It really was Orochimaru who had attacked your genin team."

Her words shook Kakashi to the core. His cute li'l genin ll alone and helpless in the Forest of death…. with Orochimaru of all the people…. Just the thought of it made Kakashi feel dread and furious in equal measures. To think his students had to spend almost four days with the Snake Sannin in their pursuit….His spine chilled with that mere thought.

"Your genin have sustained considerable damage from the fight." Sayuri continued on, giving a blind eye to his clenched fists. "While most of the physical injuries could be healed with time and medical ninjutsu, there will still be some damage that might affect them their entire life."

The feeling of dread intensified in his gut at her words.

The older woman then dropped a few files in his hands and said, "I think it's best if you read it yourself." She said softly. "I still have something to do, so I will be taking my leave now." She patted his shoulder in a supposedly comforting gesture, and walked out of the room.

Kakashi stared at the file in his hands as if it would explode in his face -it would've been better if that was the case- and then with trembling fingers he reached for it and opened it.

His eye roamed over the words written over it. He then flipped the page and continued reading. In a few seconds, he had already read everything in the file. With each word he read, a feeling of numbness spread deep inside him, chilling his heart. In the same manner he quickly finished reading the files, he put them back on the table with trembling hands. He then slumped on a chair. He squeezed his lone eye shut, feeling despair clawing in his chest.

Most of their injuries might heal, but-

at what cost?

Kakashi pressed the back of his knuckles against the closed eyelid of his lone eye to stop the water from dripping down his eye.


Sakura could hear the medics running about in the background, busy with the tasks assigned to them. Ignoring their noisy selves was easier than she had imagined. Was it because of the faux sense of privacy from the paper-thin curtains surrounding the little space around her hospital bed, or the presence of her teammates sitting on their beds that had been pushed together on the either side of her, who knows? It's not like she could complain about the arrangements, considering this was the best they could come up with in such a short time, especially with the lack of proper equipment in the temporary medic bay of the Central Tower. At least the background noise helped her forget about the utter silence that reigned inside her mind, for now at least.

"...kura! Sakura!" she was jolted out of her thoughts by Naruto's loud voice. Blinking away her daze, she rubbed her lone working left eye, and turned towards Naruto, who -along with Sasuke- were staring at her in concern. "Are you okay?!" he asked, keeping his voice purposefully low. "I've been calling you for a few minutes now."

"I'm fine. I was just…. thinking." She finished lamely as her thoughts wandered once again. Before she could fall into another daze, a warm hand enveloped hers, making it easier for her to focus on the warmth of the hand holding hers.

"You think too much, Sakura." Naruto grumbled as he squeezed her hand gently. "Honestly, watching you think gives me a headache."

Sasuke snorted at his words, but for once he didn't tease Naruto nor led him into an argument. A small smile appeared on Sakura's face as she watched the two of them interact.

"So what were you saying earlier?" Sakura asked Naruto, glanced around nervously.

With a sigh, Naruto leaned towards Sakura close enough that his breath fanned her neck. She shifted a bit uncomfortably but soon froze when she heard Naruto whispering in her ear in a low voice, "Can you still not hear him?" His blue eyes shone in concern as he asked her that, and when Sakura's sharp glare turned towards him, he couldn't help but blurt out uneasily, "It's just- you're even more dazed than usual, and it's worrying, dattebayo."

Sakura clenched her fists and shook her head.

"No." she bit her lower lip. "I can't reach him at all. He seems to be trying to reach out to me but i can only hear bits and pieces. It's like a-" she paused as she tried to think of a better word to explain her situation properly. "glitch." She placed her palm over her bandaged right socket. "It's as if something is blocking our connection, you know. " Her pink lashes trembled as she blinked her left eye. ""It's….frightening." She admitted quietly. "My mind has never been this quiet before, and it's…. it's unsettling me."

Naruto placed his warm palm over her clammy hand and tried to reassure her, "Sakura-"

"I'm scared." she blurted out in a whisper so quiet that Sasuke and Naruto almost doubted that they had imagined her quivering voice. But when they saw the unshed tears welling in her left eye, they realized that she was really shaken to the core. "The small snippets I can hear sound fainter by the second. I'm scared that I'll be left all alone. I don't like it at all. Loneliness is so scary!"

"You're not alone Sakura." Naruto gave her a side hug, and she clung to him. "We will be with you every step of the way." Sakura buried her face into Naruto's shoulder and inhaled his scent to calm herself down.

Sasuke stared at his hugging teammates, almost boring a hole in their heads. Naruto snickered and said to him, "Aww, teme, are you being jealous? Do you want a hug too?"

Sasuke glared at him. "No."

"Teme is so shy~" Naruto cooed. "It's adorable."

Sasuke half-heartedly glowered at him and deliberately shook his fist before him. "I will hit you if you spout any more nonsense, dobe."

"You're such a tsundere~" Naruto blew a kiss at him, to which Sasuke shot him a disgusted look.

Sakura let out a watery giggle at their antics. Her teammates were so childish!

Naruto looked down and gave her a beaming smile. She smiled tentatively at him, knowing that they were only trying to make her feel better with their amusing bickering

"Thank you." She whispered. Her tense shoulders relaxed. Their constant warmth and support managed to keep the rushing despair at bay, for now. She wondered how she'd cope without them.

'I'd probably have a panic attack.' She thought hysterically. 'Or end up being a crying mess.'

Of course, there was no reply from Obito. She should've gotten used to this broken connection by now. But even after hours of suffering from the glitching, she still couldn't help but hope that this is just temporary. That Obito would be back in a few hours time and tease her for being a worrywart.

…...Really, hope can be so cruel sometimes.

"Hey, Sakura." Sasuke asked. "Can I ask you something?"

The hesitation in his voice immediately grabbed her attention. She tried to give him a placating smile -though it never reached her eyes- and said, "Yes, of course sasuke."

Sasuke frowned for a few seconds, as if pondering over his choice of words before speaking. "Your connection was affected when your eye was taken, right?" Seeing Sakura's tense nod, he asked in a soft tone. "If you get an eye transplant, would it be repaired?"

"I don't know." Sakura admitted honestly, hiding her fist beneath her blanket in an attempt to conceal her frustration.. "Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I have no idea. The chances might be higher if it's a sharingan but-" she glanced at Sasuke and seeing the dark look flashing in his eyes, she shook her head. "let's not think about it."

"What about your own eye?" Naruto asked. "Would the chances of success be higher if it's your own eye that is transplanted?"

"And where would you get that?" Her temper flared and she finally snapped at them. Are they trying to rub salt on her wounds? "By now it might be in Orochimaru's hands! There's nothing we can do okay?!"

The medics outside the curtain froze at her outburst. They soon regained their senses and resumed their work quietly. They all shifted away from the place barricaded by the curtains -where Team Seven was staying for now- and tried their best to give them the privacy they needed. Being medical professionals, they knew patient confidentiality and the importance of keeping secrets. Especially if their patient wasn't emotionally stable.

Sakura hid her face behind her palms, not letting them see her breaking down like that. "Please, stop." Her throat ached because of the sheer raw emotions that she willed "I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Drowning in her depressing thoughts, she never noticed Sasuke and Naruto sharing a look over her slumped form.

"Sakura," Naruto said slowly as he sneakily activated the privacy seal under her hospital bed, "Not all hope is lost, you know."

There was something in his tone that compelled Sakura to pull her hands away and look at Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki with wide eyes.


Naruto, however, wasn't looking at her anymore. Instead, he was staring at Sasuke, who had been staring at her with a strange calmness all this time.

"Come on teme," the blonde quirked the corners of his lips upwards as he coaxed Sasuke. "Don't keep Sakura in the dark anymore."

Sakura turned towards Sasuke, feeling uncertain. What are they hiding?

Her Uchiha teammate cleared his throat. "Your eye," He said. "It's not gone." He continued on, "After parting with Team Ten in the Forest of Death, we scouted the area and searched through the Sound Team's belongings as per protocol. It was in Kin's belongings that we found the sealed container in which your eye was preserved."

"What." Sakura's breathing hitched. Hope bloomed in her chest. "You mean-"

"Yup!" Naruto gave her a blinding smile. "We got your eye back, Sakura!"

Sakura had a sharingan in her right eye.

The visions of Obito's crushed form underneath the rocks, overlapped with his pink haired genin's smiling image in his mind. When he had felt Obito's chakra from Sakura during the wave mission, Kakashi had thought that she was Obito's reincarnation. To have a sharingan only in her right eye proved his hypothesis to be true -after all, Obito had gifted him the sharingan of his left eye while his right side (including his sharingan and all were crushed beneath the rocks). Of course she'd only have the sharingan in her right eye, that's because he had the other one in the left eye. It seems even reincarnation couldn't reset the gift.

But now, she didn't even have that, because-

-it was ripped out by Orochimaru's minions.

Kakashi lone eye darkened in fury the moment that thought crossed his mind. Orochimaru dared to hurt his hero incarnate, dared to take away something that connected him to his friend.

Orochi-fucking-maru if I ever get my hands on you, you're dead.

Knock. Knock.

Shikamaru ignored the knocking on the door of their assigned room, and pulled the blanket over his head to go back to sleep. Getting up to open the door for unwelcome visitors was troublesome. Especially when they were physically and mentally exhausted and had no patience for curious genin scoping out the rival teams.

Ino and Choji seemed to have similar thoughts since they, too, didn't leave the comfort of the bunk beds. They too wanted to go back to their medicine induced sleep to recover faster.

Apparently, the unwelcome visitors outside did not get the memo, since the rapping against their door increased.

"Come on Shika! Open the door!" Kiba hollered from outside, disturbing their blissful nap.

"I think we should come back later." Shino said. "Why? Because Team Ten might be taking a nap."

"Now that's even more of a reason for me to wake them up!" The Inuzuka argued loudly. "This is not the time to sleep!"

Shikamaru swore internally. If he didn't get his well deserved rest, he would drop everything and run back home to cloud watch, chunin promotion be damned.

Choji opened his eyes and asked tiredly. "Should we open the door?"

"Leave them alone." Ino grumbled as she tossed on the middle bunk bed. "If we ignore them for some time they'll leave us alone."

For once, Shikamaru agreed wholeheartedly with her. Maybe the dog boy will lose interest if they don't pay attention to his barking.

"K-Kiba" Hinata tried to dissuade him from causing a ruckus -especially when other genin teams also lived in the hallway as them. It wouldn't do them good to catch their ire for no reason whatsoever. "M-maybe we should c-c-come back later."

"No way!" Kiba disagreed. "Didn't you say it sometime ago, that us rookie Nine should stick together?"

Dog boy said what now-?

The Inuzuka child went back to slamming his fist on the door. "Oi! How long are you guys going to act like lazy asses!" Kiba yelled. "Team Seven is here!"

Kiba, who was about to once again bang his fist against the door, jumped in shock when the door suddenly opened with a bang. His eyes widened at the sight of Shikamaru with his hand on the door handle, his hair for once falling to his shoulders rather than being tied in a high ponytail. Ino and Chooji stood behind him, their appearances also unkempt. The three of them had dark circles under their eyes, and looked very tired. The bandages peeking beneath their clothes only helped in making their appearance more miserable.

For a second, Kiba felt guilty for disturbing their rest. Maybe he should've come back later instead of insisting on visiting Team Seven together with the rest of the Rookie Nine.

"What did you say?" Shikamaru asked sharply.

Seeing Kiba staring dazedly ito nothingness, Shino sighed and answered in place of his idiotic teammate. "Team Seven passed the Second Stage too, so we thought to visit them together to congratulate them."

"Finally!" Choji sighed in relief. "They're here!"

Ino huffed. "Took them long enough."

Shikamaru nodded at them. "Give us a few minutes to get ready. After that, let's go together."

When Team Eight agreed, Shikamaru once again closed the door.

"Do you think Sakura's okay?" Ino asked in worry.

Shikamaru rubbed his fingers over his temple as he felt an incoming headache. After he was done with the Preliminary Rounds, he would take a long nap.

"Let's hope for the best." He said as he patted Ino's shoulder in an assuring manner.


"Kanade, prepare the diagnosis room for tests." Sayuri started giving out orders the moment she walked into the medbay. "Tsukihime, send an ANBU to the Fuinjutsu Department and get me an elite team on cursed seals. After you're done with that, give Team Seven a run-down of their present situation. Kaito. , go to the archives and get me all the medical books you can find about eye transplants."

"Yes, Sayuri-sama." Kanade (a low tier medic nin), Tsukihime and Kaito immediately shunshined away to complete their assigned tasks.

The other medic nins were too used to their superior's temperament, so they didn't even bat their eyelashes at her sudden orders.

Sayuri's eyes roamed around the room, and she then frowned. "Has Natsuki not returned from the hospital with the medicinal salves for severe chakra burns?"

"No Sayuri-sama." The nurse nearest to her answered.

"I gave him one job…" the older woman grumbled under her breath as she made her way to the corner of the room where her granddaughter and her team were temporarily staying. However, before she could reach her destination, an ANBU guard appeared before her in a poof of smoke.

"Sayuri-sama, the Hokage has asked for your presence in the meeting room." Bird told her as he tilted his head in respect.

She nodded. "I will be there soon enough." She then tried to walk past the ANBU, but Bird stopped her before she could go.

"I apologise, but I have been asked to escort you immediately."

The older Haruno resisted the urge to scowl. She thought she had a bit more time before she'd have to face the hell hounds.

I guess this is it.

She turned to the side and beckoned a passing medic-nin. She then told him, "Tell Tsukihime that I leave my granddaughter's recovery in her capable hands."

Then, with a final look around the medbay, she sighed and turned to Bird.

"Alright, let's go."

Bird immediately placed his gloved hand over her shoulders, and disappeared with Sayuri in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a stunned medic nin.

When Tsukihime got back from her errand, she was told that her superior left her in charge of Sakura Haruno'streatment. Tsukihime was rendered speechless for a few minutes.

Sayuri-sama asked her to deal with her granddaughter's delicate situation? Really? That old hag, whohated incompetent medics, and didn't have a good word to speak of about her subordinates? That woman? Leaving her in-charge? Especially of a surgery that requires knowledge and experience, that she definitely lacked when compared to the likes of Sayuri-sama, the late Biwako-sama and Tsunade-sama?

Tsukihime pondered over the meaning behind her superior's words. Sayuri-sama would never leave a patient with such a delicate condition in hands of her subordinates -even more so if it's her precious granddaughter. For her doing so could only mean one of the two things -either that the patient needs to be treated asap so that their condition doesn't worsen, or that shit is about to go down.

Tsukihime felt a chill running down her spine.

It seems like a storm is coming.

The moment Sayuri appeared in the meeting room, the argument that had been going on stilled. Bird immediately disappeared after completing his task, leaving Sayuri in the scrutiny of the Hokage, the ANBU Commander, the Jonin Commander, the Head of T&I and Jonin Kakashi Hatake.

"Sayuri Haruno," The Hokage order, "Report us the medical condition of Team Seven."

"Yes, Lord Hokage." Sayuri bowed to the leader of her village and heeded his orders.

"The initial diagnosis of the genin of Team Seven is as follows-"

"Naruto Uzumaki, the Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki, had severe chakra burns which has also affected some of his chakra pathways." The older woman started with Naruto, and one by one explained the initial diagnosis in simpler terms. "There were also traces of flesh deep third-degree burns over his skin from some sort of corrosive chakra, which I think is the result of the boy being in direct contact with bijuu chakra for a longer time than intended." An image of the altercation in the seal on Naruto's abdomen flashed in her eyes, and she informed her superiors about it. "His seal might've been affected in some way, since I sensed his chakra not following the normal pattern during chakra circulation, though I think consulting a Hyuuga about it will be better. Another thing to note is that Naruto's healing factor has temporarily stopped working, which is why he hasn't self-healed his wounds yet. I believe the fault lies within the seal. We should get a Fuinjutsu expert take a look at the seal and undo whatever mess Orochimaru has caused to it."

"Sakura Haruno, the kunoichi of Team Seven- had severe chakra exhaustion, third degree burns, concussion, internal bleeding, a few cracked ribs, and bruised bones, as well as a missing right eye." She continued on without batting her eyelashes. "Due to her eye not being taken out by following proper medical procedure, there is a high risk of severe nerve damage and fear of infection in her socket, which might lead to permanent blindness if not treated with caution."

"Uchiha Sasuke, the last of the Uchiha Clan- also had external injuries in the form of severe burns and bruises. He suffered from third degree chakra exhaustion, and a few bruised bones. Because of his overuse of sharingan, we might need to temporarily seal his dojutsu until his eyes recover from the severe strain and damage they had received due to overuse of high level sharingan techniques." She paused for a bit, then after pondering over her next words she hesitantly continued on. "However what concerns me the most is the cursed mark left on him by Orochimaru. The foreign chakra in the seal interferes with the chakra circulation, and if not dealt with in time, Sasuke might suffer from severe chakra poisoning- or worse, chakra cancer."

The Jonin Commander- Shikaku Nara asked. "What treatment has been done so far?"

"Their external injuries have been treated so far. Their internal injuries are being dealt with proper medication. Since in Naruto Uzumaki's case chakra healing would be ineffective for the chakra burns caused by bijuu chakra, we had sent a scout to the hospital to get the chakra salves in the preservation room that had been made by Mito-sama for such cases. However, if his seal is fixed, his healing factor would start working and that'd be a better help for the boy than any medication or treatment."

Sayuri paused, her jade green eyes shook a bit as she wondered if she should speak her next words or not.

After a few seconds of consideration, she decided to bite the bullet and asked her Hokage, "Lord Hokage, I have a request to make." Seeing Hiruzen nod, she bowed deeply and spoke, "The members of Team Seven require further treatment, which the sooner we get over it, the better. However, the rules of the Chunin Exam states that during the competition, the participants will only be given basic treatment to ensure fairness. But just basic first aid isn't enough for team seven, if we want them to have further treatment, they will have to give up on chunin exams. That's why, I implore you to take them out of chunin exams so rather than aggravating their injuries, they can focus on their recovery."

A grave silence surrounded the meeting room. The people present could not believe their ears. Taking out Team Seven from Chunin exams? How is that possible?

Among all the participants, Team Seven was the only team that held the most attention. There were many people who had their eyes on them. Many bigwigs were curious about the Last Uchiha, and wanted to see his prowess with their very own eyes in the chunin exams. Some people also had their eyes on the Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki -for one reason or another- and were sure to pay attention to him if Naruto advances further in the chunin exams. And now that the higher ups in Konoha's Council were already in an uproar about Sakura's sharingan -and the fact that they almost lost a sharingan weilder to that crazy Snake Sannin's schemes- the attention on Team Seven has been doubled.

To take out this team at such a critical junction, isn't this just asking for trouble?!

Hiruzen Sarutobi raised a brow and asked, "Do you even know what you're asking for?"

Sayuri didn't raise her head from her bow. "I know I'm asking for something really tricky, but I am only speaking for my patients' well being."

Shikaku rubbed his temple and muttered. "How troublesome."

"Well, it is true that sometimes, a medic's orders overrule a patient's decisions." Hiruzen agreed. "But do you think their condition is bad enough that they are to be treated as soon as possible without any delay? Can it not be delayed for even a day or so?" He explained to her. "The Preliminary Round will be conducted in four hours. After the Preliminary Round ends today, the remaining participants will be given a month's time to prepare for the Final round."

For a moment, the older woman had the urge to lie. Because she knew that if she compromised even a bit, Hiruzen would choose to delay their treatment. But this setback would be bad for Sakura's injuries, which needed to be operated on as soon as possible. While the other two could wait a day before further treatment, her granddaughter couldn't. That's why it'd be better to lie. For Sakura.


Looking at the Hokage's unreadable eyes, she quickly smothered those thoughts. Lying at this critical junction was foolishness. If the Hokage consulted any other medic, they'd tell him the truth and she'd be even more screwed. She was already walking on thin ice, no need to dig her grave deeper.

"Naruto and Sasuke's treatment can be delayed as long as they stick to Taijutsu and do not try to use chakra -or else their conditions will be aggravated. While Sakura can also join them as long as she follows the same instructions, however, I would not recommend her to do so." She admitted honestly. "We need to begin the healing process on her optic nerves and stop the infection from spreading. If we miss the timing, her eye transplant would be impossible in the future, leading to Konoha losing a promising asset."

Hiruzen blew out smoke from his lips and turned towards the silver haired jonin standing in the corner of the room. During their discussion, the Hatake hadn't shown any reaction that spoke of his worry for his students.

"And what about you, Kakashi?" He asked the copy ninja. "As their Jonin teacher, you have equal rights on deciding on your team's behalf."

Kakashi stepped forward and said, "As the Leader of Team Seven, I do not agree with taking decisions on their behalf."

The older woman with greying pink hair snapped her head to the side to gape at him. "What?"

"Sayuri-sama, While I do get your point, I am afraid I cannot fully agree with it." Kakashi shook his head as he spoke his thoughts out loud. "You are looking at the situation from the perspective of a medic. However, you keep forgetting that those three are not just your patient or mere children, but they are also proud genin of the Village Hidden in the Leaves." He then said, "The moment they became genin of konoha they were no longer under civilian law. They are shinobi, and Konoha's law states that every shinobi who has earned the hitai-ate is an adult in the eyes of the law. That means they have full power to make their own decisions."

The Hatake continued on. "While I do agree that in some cases a medic's orders overrules a shinobi's decisions, it does not mean that the right to choose should be taken away from them. That's why, I think that the choice of whether they should leave the exams or continue with it should be theirs."

"I trust them to make the correct decision, and bear with it's consequences."

The elderly Haruno's facial expression twisted, as if she hadn't expected Kakashi to go against her like this. Meanwhile, Kakashi didn't even spare her a glance, instead he stared straight at the Hokage, awaiting his decision.

Hiruzen took his sweet time as he took a long puff of smoke from his cigar. When he finally came to a decision, he spoke, "After thinking about this situation, I have decided to agree with Kakashi. Let the genin decide their course of future."

Since their leader had already made his decision, there was no more room for argueent. So, Sayuri could only grit her teeth and bow her head in compliance.

The Third Hokage pulled out three forms from the desk and handed them to Kakashi. "If your students choose to give up the exams, let them sign this consent form so they can be treated as soon as possible."

Kakashi clenched the papers tightly and bowed to the Hokage. "Yes, Lord Hokage."

Hiruzen then waved his hand in dismissal. "Kakashi, you're dismissed."

The Hatake didn't need to be told twice.

The moment Kakashi shunshined away, Hiruzen activated the privacy seals in the meeting room. As the seals on the floor lit up in response, Sayuri felt an oppressive aura choking her. She broke out in cold sweat and stared at Hiruzen- no, her Hokage, who glared at her with a coldcoldcoldcoldcold look in his eyes that had her kneeling unconsciously. Thick Killing Intent das released in the air by the god of shinobi well known as 'The Professor', most of it was aimed at her.

Sayuri's body trembled with fear that rose from the bottom of her heart.

"Now Sayuri, let's talk." Her Hokage's intimidating voice questioned her. "What is this about your granddaughter awakening the Mangekyo Sharingan?"

"I-I-" Fear clogged her throat, not even letting out a single sound. She tried her best to suppress her instinctive fear and somehow managed to stutter out an excuse.

"-I d-do not k-know what you a-are talking a-about, Lord Hokage."

She took a few more breaths to calm her rapidly beating heart. When she finally felt she had enough control of her body, she gathered her courage and spoke

"Do not take me for a fool, Sayuri Haruno." The Third Hokage glowered. "Mangekyo is an advanced stage of sharingan that is activated through sheer trauma. You mean to tell me that your granddaughter directly activated the highly advanced stage of sharingan without even going through the beginner stages of the dojutsu activation?"

And how do you know about these clan secrets? Sayuri wanted to question him, even though she already knew the answer to that. Even if he was curious, Hiruzen couldn't access clan secrets on his own. This was ne f the many rules proposed by the First Council during the founding of Konoha, so as to restrict the Hokage from interfering into clan business. Since the Hokage is bound by the ancient law, he couldn't pry into clan secrets. Unless a clan member themselves told him these secrets, there's no way the Hokage can know about it (though it's a different story if they try to acquire this information by force, just like a certain warmonger did years ago) She had a feeling that Shishui- that overly trusting fool- must've blabbed about it.

She felt bitter, but she didn't speak.

"Even for a pure blooded Uchiha, directly activating their mangekyo without going through the beginner stages was impossible. For someone who is a quarter-Uchiha, that is even more so." Hiruzen tilted his head as his deep, dark eyes accessed her kneeling form with a calculative glint. His sharp mind must've already pieced together the truth, but he wanted to hear it from her.

After all, even if he chalked up Sakura's activation of sharingan as a coincidence, how could he explain her proficiency with it? Unless, she was personally trained by a sharingan-user herself. Since Kakashi didn't teach her that (if the Hatake knew about Sakura's sharingan he would've informed his superiors. The Hatakes had always been loyal.) and Itachi couldn't have done so for obvious reasons- his suspicion fell on her.

"What are you hiding, Sayuri Haruno?"

Seeing that she was still mute even now, he ordered,

"Speak, or you shall be convicted for treason."

This is it. She thought. Her lies will come undone like a house of cards. And she won't be able to do anything.

Knowing that there was no way she can keep her secret mum anymore, Sayuri Haruno finally opened her mouth and spilled out the very secret she had been keeping for decades.

"...What?" the three of them couldn't believe their eyes. The paper before them was similar to the forms they had signed before entering the Forest of Death, but the words on it were a bit different.

"Your basic treatment is finished." Kakashi repeated his words again when he saw that his three genin were looking at him like lost little ducklings. How cute. "If you want further treatment to be done on time, you will have to sign these consent forms."

"It says that if we sign this form, it means we are giving up on the Chunin exams?" Sakura asked in disbelief.


"Is this a joke?!" Naruto crumpled the form in his hands and exclaimed "Why the hell would we give up on the Chunin exams?! Especially after we've come so far! Giving up now will be like running away! And Team Seven aren't quitters, dattebayo!"

Sakura bit her lower lip. Naruto did have a point, but-

Sasuke turned towards Tsukihime- their medic-in-charge and asked, "If we forgo advanced treatment and carry on with the chunin exams, how would it affect us?"

"Teme, are you actually thinking of quitting?" Naruto gasped in an over-dramatic fashion. "Who are you, and what have you done to my teammate?"

Sasuke pushed the loud blonde away from him. "Shut up idiot." He pulled Naruto's ear, making the Uzumaki cry out in pain. "A good ninja should always take in the pros and cons of every situation before they go for the kill."

"Well said, Sasuke!" Kakashi ruffled his hair fondly, messing up the Uchiha's duck-butt hair even more. Sasuke slapped his grubby hands away from his precious, precious hair and glared at the Hatake for even daring to mess with it.

Tsukihime cleared her throat to grab their attention. When four pair of eyes -eh, more like two pairs plus two more- snapped towards her, she spoke, "Uchiha-san, if you and your team choose to continue the exams, you might aggravate your condition." She pointed towards Naruto and said, "In Uzumaki-san's case, any more use of chakra can lead to chakra poisoning, which has a very delicate treatment and will render you to bed rest for almost two months." She then turned towards Sasuke and continued on, "The same goes for you, Uchiha-san. If you use any chakra techniques, you might unconsciously draw the power of the cursed mark, which will make your condition worse. Your curse mark also makes you very susceptible to hallucinations, so if it isn't dealt with in time. It will get worse if not dealt with in time." Tsukihime nodded to Sakura and told her, "Haruno-san, your eye socket has sustained considerable damage due to the aggressive removal of your eye without any proper medical procedure. Since that eye also happened to have activated your dojutsu, it is even more important to get yourself healed before you perform any intensive activities. the chakra receptors and your optic nerves at the back of your eye have been severely damaged. Not to mention that if not dealt with in time an infection might set in, which will result in permanent blindness."

The three of them fell into a contemplative silence, thinking over her words. Sasuke frowned, his sharp mind dwelled on her unspoken words. Sakura's downcast eyes seemed lost in thought, as she stared dazedly at her bandaged palms. And Naruto-

"What if we still want to pursue the exams?" He asked. All eyes turned to him. "In that case, what procu-" He frowned when he couldn't recall the right word. "preecu- pricau-"

"It's precautions, dobe." Sasuke sighed.

"Yes, that one!" Naruto snapped his fingers and cheered. "What precautions do we have to keep in mind if we want to continue with the exams?" The blonde tried to be optimistic. Surely, things can't be that bad, right?

Tsukihime sighed, not believing the blonde to be so stubborn. Still, instead of admonishing him or something, she replied to his words. After all, a Jonin should be responsible for their genin team. If Hatake isn't even willing to rebuke him, what right does she have as a third party to butt in?

"The three of you cannot use any technique that uses chakra, that means no ninjutsu or genjutsu. Stick with taijutsu or other chakra-less techniques if you still want to participate." she started telling them. "Do not strain your body any further than it already is. Keep in mind that you three also suffer from severe chakra exhaustion, that's why forcing your body to do even more than it already is lethal. Other than that, I have some specific instructions for you. Uzumaki-san is not allowed to forcibly seek the help of his tenant." Naruto gaped at her. "Uchiha-san is prohibited from using the sharingan." Sasuke scowled at her. "Haruno-san, please mute your chakra senses temporarily so as not to cause any strain on your already stressed chakra system." Sakura clenched her fists at the medic's words.

Naruto's shoulders slumped. "You're not leaving us a way out, dattebayo." He whined. "That's not fair!

"You should've thought of the consequences before misusing your body and forcing it beyond it's limits." Tsukihime pointed out.

"It's not our fault that we gather the worst kind of attention." Sasuke retorted.

Before Tsukihime could respond back to his words, Kakashi interrupted them.

"Now, now, kids." He said as he held up his hands in the gesture of surrender, "The nice medic is just worried about you. They are not targeting you or anything like that."

"Doesn't feel like it." Naruto muttered under his breath in a stage-whisper tone.

"Naruto." Naruto reluctantly looked up at him, and saw Kakashi peering at him as he spoke solemnly. "There are many people who might have ill will towards you, but believe me when I say this, that the Konoha medics are not among them."

Naruto's eyes glazed with tears as he nodded.

"Now," Kakashi looked them in the eyes and said seriously, "Just so you know even if you choose to back out, I will not think of you any differently." He then patted each of their heads in a comforting gesture and said fondly. "You have already made me so proud, you do not need to prove anything to me."

Tears streamed down Naruto's eyes and he couldn't help but sniffle. Sasuke awkwardly shifted in his seat at his warm gesture. Sakura just glanced at him for a few seconds before looking away.

While Naruto and Sasuke were immersed in Kakashi's sudden warm gesture, Sakura, who had been silent during this discussion until now, asked in a quiet tone, "What are the chances of us not worsening our condition if we seek to continue the exams?"

"Twenty percent." Tsukihime said bluntly.

Sakura's lone eye widened at her words.

The medic-in-charge tried to make them understand their situation better.

"A ninja's best tool is their body. If you damage your tool in any way, do you think you can make progress in future? Do you want to give up on your dreams for short term gain?" Tsukihime asked softly.

"The choice is yours."

After giving her piece of advice, Tsukihime left them alone to think over their decision. She had tried her best to convince them. If they still don't see the right way, she couldn't do anything about it.

"I'll leave you to think over it." Kakashi said. "Don't take too much time, though. The Preliminary Rounds will begin in two hours." Saying this, he too walked out of the room after sending them a concerned glance.

The three of them thought over their situation. They recalled their fight with Orochimaru and the Sound team; thought about their initial diagnosis that was informed to them when they had gone through the first checkup when they entered the Central Tower. They pondered over the conversation that they just had with their medic-in-charge and Kakashi-Sensei' and came to a conclusion-

"Let's forfeit."

Sakura's soft voice snapped them out of their thoughts.

"What?" Naruto exclaimed.

The pink haired girl pulled her knees closer to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "If my stubbornness causes me to lose Obito forever, I will never be able to forgive myself."

"But we promised that we'd give it our shot!" Naruto argued back. "To back out now will be like we are giving up halfway!"

"Naruto, if you had to choose between me and the Hokage seat, what would you choose?" Sakura asked.

Naruto faltered at her words, his eyes flashing with conflict. A choice between his dreams and his loved ones? It was a tough choice, but Naruto knew deep in his heart that if he ever had to face such a situation, what his choice would be.

Even if Naruto didn't reply, his silence gave her the answer. She smiled bitterly and murmured-

"That's what I thought."

Taking a deep breath, she gave the two of them a sad smile and said, "I am giving up on the Chunin Exams. If you two want, you can continue without me."

"After my recovery I can always try my luck in the next chunin exams."

Sasuke crossed his arms and said, "I am also thinking of giving up."

The two of them turned towards their Uchiha teammate, who raised his brows nonchalantly.

"My dream is to kill my brother and avenge my clan." He spat out the word 'brother', as if it were a curse. "My reason for participating in chunin exams was to try my luck against other, more powerful participants; to see how much I have improved, and how far is the gap between me and that man." He recalled something from the past and scowled. "Did you know that Itachi passed the Chunin Exams at the age of 10?!" He huffed in annoyance. "I wanted to prove to myself that I'm no worse than him." he then looked down at the bandages peeking from his clothes and said as an afterthought, "I bet Itachi never had to face one of the freaking Sannins in Chunin Exams."

"Then why are you giving up on the exams?" Naruto asked.

"Because to be honest, My shinobi rank doesn't matter to me, only power does." Sasuke admitted bluntly. "I have to kill that man, no matter what the cost is. Rather than leaving a weakness by stubbornly chasing a flimsy promotion, it would be better to focus on healing my body and then train myself to get stronger."

Naruto looked at his teammates, looking unsure about what he should do.

"You need to think for yourself whether you want to advance or retreat, Naruto." Sakura patted his hand in a reassuring manner. "No matter what decision you take, we will fully support you."

Sasuke didn't say anything to that, but just nodded in agreement.

Naruto fiddled with the zipper of his orange jumpsuit as he thought over everything.

Unlike Sakura (who wanted to achieve this promotion to get closer to her goal of becoming Hokage)and Sasuke (who wanted to test his prowess against more powerful opponents) the reason for Naruto's participation in the exams had been something he had been trying to do since he was young- to prove that he was someone worth enough to be acknowledged. He wanted people to see Naruto Uzumaki for the boy he was, and not a demon brat or whatever other insults they come up with. He wanted to be acknowledged for who he was, not for what was sealed inside him. That's why he was unwilling to just give up halfway, especially when they have come so far!

But, was it worth it?

He thought of his tragic childhood, of being hated by everyone and not even knowing why. He thought of his first friends -Sakura and Hinata; of people who were willing to get to know him -Iruka-Sensei, Old man Teuchi, Ayame-nee, his friends from the Academy. He thought of Team Seven -his family by choice- and of the time spent together with them. He then thought of the Kyuubi sealed inside of him, filled with bitterness and hatred for humanity-




The nine tailed fox bared his teeth as he slammed against the sealed bars, and roared our angrily, "SHUT THE HELL UP YOU BRAT! DO YOU THINK YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE SUFFERING?!" his red eyes stared at the tiny blonde brat as he snarled fiercely, "Do you think I asked to be sealed in you?! I am the one who should complain! I am the one being forcibly sealed in a pathetic brat like you! What crime did I do to deserve this? Tell me!"




He thought of the various experiences he faced in these chunin exams -of them messing around in the First Round; of shit hitting the fan in the Second Round; of the time spent in his teammates' company, of exchanging secrets and getting closer to one another, of plotting for their future, and much more.

When he had told them his secret, Sasuke and Sakura did not turn away from him or judge him for being a Jinchuuriki. If mere thirteen year olds can see that he's not the demon fox, then what does it say about those who have always scorned him for being the demon brat?

To think he wanted to prove his worth to those kind of people…. isn't that work done in vain? Who could guarantee that even if he passed the chunin exams, those people would look past their prejudices and see him for the container he is, and not the bijuu? Rather than working for their acknowledgement, he would rather do something for himself.

Naruto placed a hand over his stomach, the very place where his seal would be visible if he concentrated his chakra over there, and then nodded.

"Yeah," He agreed. "Let's forfeit."