Tsunade nodded. "Yes. I'm sending you as the medic on a mission to Snow," she said, peering at the pink-haired kunoichi.
"Uchiha Itachi will be the captain, with Nara Shikamaru and Sai going along as well."
Sakura shook her head, bemused. "Why do you keep grouping those three, anyway?" she asked, taking the mission papers
from her shisho.
Tsunade sighed, propping her head on her hand. "Well, aside from us and Shizune, Shikamaru's the only one that knows about
Uchiha's issue." She tapped the corner of her eye pointedly. "And Sai... Well, that just amuses me."
"You put Sai on the team for shits and giggles?" Sakura asked skeptically, giving her teacher a look.
Tsunade smirked. "Pretty much. He annoys the shit out of Uchiha. I have a betting pool saying Uchiha beats the crap out
of him in the next two weeks."
Sakura sighed and shook her head, eyes scanning over the scroll. Her brow slowly slid upwards before she looked up at the
Hokage. "A princess?" she asked, surprised.
"Not the high princess, but yes. A princess. From Shadow. She's going to marry the Snow prince," Tsunade explained patiently.
Sakura hid her grin. "A princess, from shadow, is marrying the prince from Snow?"
Tsunade scowled. "Yes. I already noticed the irony, you don't have to point it out."
Sakura chuckled but fell silent, reading over the rest of the scroll. She stood there for several more minutes, committing
it to memory, before she handed it back and bowed. "I take it you'll be debriefing the others?" she asked.
The Hokage nodded. "Yes. There's one more thing, though, which is why I'm debriefing you separately..."
"Tadaima," Itachi called as he stepped into his house, toeing off his shoes and placing them in the rack by the door. He
put on his usual black slippers.
"Okaeri," came Shikamaru's bored voice, followed by laughter, then choking. "Troublesome..."
Itachi stepped into the living room and quirked a brow at the trio playing cards at the tea table. Well, two of them were.
One was bent over, sitting on the couch, coughing up the chips he'd inhaled while he was laughing. Yamanaka got up and patted
Akamichi on the back, looking sympathetic, and when she saw Itachi, she smiled and waved.
"Okaeri nasai, Itachi-kun," she greeted cheerfully.
His brow lifted further at the switch to his given name and the honorific attached. Oh no. Did he already have a fangirl?
"Arigato, Yamanaka-san," he replied and inclined his head to Akamichi, who'd finally regained his breath.
"Hi," he greeted simply.
Shikamaru sighed. "Hokage-sama wants us to report for a mission briefing at six," he said without preamble.
Itachi nodded. "Very well. Who are our teammates?"
"You, me and Sai, like last time. She said she's sending a medic with us too," the lazy nin replied.
"Did she say who?"
Shikamaru shrugged, throwing his cards down on the table and getting up. "No."
"Very well." Itachi sighed and turned. "I will be in the celler if you need me," he told his roommate before disappearing
down the hall.
Ino gave a dreamy sigh. "Sakura's sooo lucky," she murmured, effecting a dramatic pose.
Choji gave her a weird look. "What do you mean?"
Shikamaru shook his head at his best friend. "Don't ask. Just don't. You'll get her going."
Ino threw a balled up piece of paper and it bounced off his head.
"ALL RIGHT, SHUT UP!" Tsunade shouted, glowering at the council. They fell silent, though it was obvious they weren't pleased.
She really, really wanted to just dissolve the council and be done with it, but no, Shizune insisted they were crucial to
the 'balance of power'. She sent a glare at her assistant, who ignored it. Taking a deep breath, she looked at the council.
"Now, I know it's all one big hate fest on Uchiha Itachi in here, but if you recall, it was the council that ordered him to
kill his family. The only thing he did 'wrong'," she made air quotes with her fingers, "is spare his little brother's life-"
"Tsunade-hime, with all due respect," Tanaka Mio, the female elder, interrupted, "If he had completely obeyed his orders
from the beginning, we wouldn't have to deal with one of Konoha's biggest threats since the Kyu-"
Tsunade's fist slammed on the table, her glare burning holes in the woman's face (figuratively). "Completely obeyed his
orders?" she hissed furiously. "If you hadn't ordered him to kill his family to begin with, we would have been able to find
a peaceable solution to the unrest among the Uchiha, and Uchiha Sasuke wouldn't have had to grow up mad, with no mother or
father to turn him in the right direction!"
There was a sigh from the back of the room, and all eyes turned toward the council member sitting there. "Tsunade-hime,"
Danzo said patiently, fixing her with a tolerant look. "We've heard all of these arguments before, but the fact of the matter
is, we simply aren't convinced of Uchiha Itachi's loyalty to the village, or you."
Tsunade glared at him. "Has he done one bad thing since he returned?" she demanded, looking at the rest of the council.
"Has he disobeyed one order given him by myself, my assistant or you?" Silence, and Tsunade nodded. "He hasn't, so what reason
do you have to distrust him to the point that you're willing to not give him a chance?"
Danzo's lips thinned slightly as he frowned at her. "I believe I speak for the council in saying, Tsunade-hime, that we
aren't convinced, and there is no way we will be. It's better to just lock the threat away-" He cut himself off at her triumphant
"You'll have to wait, then," she declared, smirking. "He's just left with a team on a mission."
Tanaka straightened, eyes wide. "Tsunade-hime!" she gasped. "You are deliberately-"
"Lemme guess," Tsunade interrupted. "I'm deliberately trying to undermine your authority, ne?"
She gave them a vicious smile as she stood. "Who's the Hokage here, me or you?" she added. "We'll have another meeting once
Uchiha Itachi returns." With that, she spun on her heel and stalked from the room.
Shizune offered a quick, small bow before hurrying after her. "Tsunade-sama," she said worriedly, "Was it wise to send
him off on a mission today?"
"Yes," the Hokage replied, obviously in a foul mood. "If not, they would have had him executed by dawn."
Shizune gulped. "Ts-Tsunade-sama... What are you going to do?"
The blonde scowled. "This is getting tedious, Shizune," she said as they stepped into the elevator. "They continuously
undermine my authority, and it's beginning to become a problem. People are beginning to wonder who's really in charge, according
to Ibiki and Genma. I cannot allow this to continue." Her brows furrowed. "If they do not concede, I may have to dissolve
Shizune froze as the doors of the elevator opened, just standing there and watching her Hokage walk away. Dissolve the