Chapter Thirty Three ~ Realized Plans

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I arrived at the training field not too early the next morning, but not too late. I had a good estimate of when Naruto would be completed with his jutsu and ready to depart...

Or to not depart. There was only twenty four hours left before the deadline.

So I had come to them instead of the other way around. After all, I'd finished with my own training earlier this morning.

"Have you finished the technique, Naruto?" I asked when I reached Naruto and Yamato who were located in the same large clearing as they'd been for days now. It certainly looked as though he'd accomplished something, judging by the large crater he was standing in.

However, noticing the depressed look on his face, and Yamato's not quite yet defeated exhaustion, it definitely wasn't perfected yet.

Unlike my new technique.

With rest, nourishment and a lot more practice, I had come pretty close to what I had wanted to achieve.

And I was very satisfied with my results.

"He hasn't finished, no," Yamato shook his head.

I nodded, contemplatively.

This new information meant that the likelihood of me being sent out on a solo mission to support Kakashi and Team Ten had just increased.

Either way was fine by me.

"Naruto!" Sakura shouted from the top of the crater. A pale boy stood next to her, and I studied him closely as they approached. "You're awesome!" She smiled, glancing around the crater.

"Your training is progressing well, I see," the boy observed. The way he held himself spoke of a well trained shinobi: dangerous, capable, at least jonin level.

So why was he on team seven?

Sakura noticed my gaze and realized that I'd never met the boy. "Oh! Cashile! This is Sai. Since you have your own genin team, and because... y'know... Sasuke... he was added to team seven! Sai, this is Cashile Kuroki." She explained awkwardly.

It was easy to tell that the transition had been rough on her.

I noticed her tight lipped smile but ignored it. After all, it wasn't my problem to deal with.

Sai smiled at me, squeezing his eyes shut, and I immediately distrusted everything about him.

Fake, he screamed. His blank eyes, fake smile, carefully composed face... He almost reminded me of an older version of me.

Except I was—am—better at faking it.

"Cashile-san," he greeted. "I've heard much about you."

I turned my gaze to Sakura and Naruto in turn, studying their reactions closely. Neither seemed surprised, so they must have talked about me around him. However... Those words carried too much weight for him to be referring to idle rumors.

The conversation left me behind, but I didn't bother to keep up, instead opting to mull over this new puzzle. People were saying goodbye to Naruto so I left, not bothering to speak my own farewells.

Sai was strong. He was fakefakefake. He clearly was trustworthy, to have Yamato's—an ANBU Captain's—respect. But he knew about me, had heard things, remembered them. Which left me with one question.

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