Second Bite at the Cherry @sakinthra
Chapter 56

Root had, since its founding, maintained comprehensive notes on each of the Konoha clans. This was one of its more well-kept secrets; clans didn't particularly like others knowing their secrets, and if such information were to get into the hands of an enemy, it could spell doom for every individual in a clan. Root naturally kept these notes under the highest security it could manage. Sai had gotten to look at these notes once, upon his graduation from Root's training program. Root shinobi were the ones called to manage most defections from the village, after all, and Danzo had justified maintaining such accurate clan notes as a safety precaution. If a Nara decided to defect and needed 'disposing of', for example, Root agents would need to know the limitations of their shadow jutsu and how best to counter. Sai had been given six hours to memorize the notes. A part of him wished his younger self had been rebellious enough to try and copy the notes in secret. Maybe if he'd had the full set, he would have been able to come up with a quicker strategy for facing Neji Hyuuga.

Instead, all Sai had were what he had chosen to memorize at the time. There were several hard and fast rules for approaching a Hyuuga, and he focused on those to begin with.

The first rule was to never fight a Hyuuga alone.

As Sai made his way down to the arena, coming to a stop face to face with Neji, he allowed himself to inwardly laugh.

Already failed step one.

The second rule was to never engage a Hyuuga in close combat. Their Jyuuken was a superior taijutsu style on its own, but combined with closing off chakra nodes? A guaranteed loss. Sai vaguely remembered hearing that Naruto had defeated Neji the year before, despite being on the receiving end of the Sixty-Four Palms technique, but Sai was no Jinchuuriki. Thankfully, Sai considered himself a long-range specialist anyway.

In any other scenario, long range fighter versus close range fighter would have put things solely in his favor. The Hyuuga, however, had a unique rotating technique that was perfect for shielding them from...well, pretty much anything, close and long range alike. But unlike most people, Sai knew the third rule about the Hyuuga, and perhaps the most important.

The Hyuuga had a blind spot.

He'd never been sure exactly how Danzo had procured such incredibly important information, and now that he thought about it, if the Hyuuga ever found out that there was a sect in Konoha that knew this secret, there likely would be…

Sai smiled.

Admittedly, the thought simply hadn't occurred to him before now. The existence of these clan dossiers, detailing their secrets, weaknesses, strengths...it wasn't necessarily illegal to know those secrets, but the clans would certainly riot over not having been told about this knowledge breach. He'd discussed with Sakura's old friends the implications of Root having stolen children for their ranks, particularly children from clans such as the Aburame, which they already had a small amount of evidence to prove. They'd never, however, discussed what Root might have learned from stealing clan children. An Uchiha might have been 'lost to war', raised in their ranks so that Danzo could study the Sharingan. A Yamanaka child might have 'perished in childbirth', and instead grew up in Root, taking the natural talent for their possession jutsu with them.

Maybe the odds of him succeeding in battle against the Hyuuga prodigy were lower than if he'd been sent against a clanless genin. But that didn't mean he still couldn't turn this situation to his advantage in a completely different way.

He'd survived Danzo's attack. Something he'd never thought possible. Danzo had thrown some of his best towards trying to take them down and they'd survived. And now that his mind wasn't being bogged down by the immediate threat of death, he could afford to plan. He could afford to attack back.

Root operated in the shadows. What was the best way to take on a group that had spent decades covering their tracks?

The best first step, of course, was to start shining a light into the darkness.

He pulled forth one of his blank scrolls and readied his brush. In front of him, Neji settled into the traditional Hyuuga fighting stance. He'd have to move quickly. He wasn't sure how much Neji knew of his own style, but the instant he realized Sai was a long range fighter, he'd be doing everything necessary to keep Sai on the ground. That meant Sai's first step was to get into the air as quickly as possible.

"Two of my team have already fallen."

Neji spoke, which caught Sai somewhat off guard. He hadn't been expecting a pre-fight conversation.

"They fought well." Neji continued. "But if I am to bring honor to my team, and to myself, I must fight better than either of them. And if you think your fight will be as easy as it was for your teammates, you are sorely mistaken."

Chakra flowed towards his eyes, and Sai saw his veins bulge with the influence of the Byakugan. Neji's message rang loud and clear. He understood that Lee had thrown his match for Sakura's success. And Gaara had already passed by his opponent's forfeit. There was no reason that all three of his team needed to pass. The Kage would have expected a Jinchuuriki to succeed, and they were more focused on the success of Sakura, the leader of the group. Whether Sai won or lost here likely wouldn't affect the success of the neutrality project. Thus, Neji had no reason to hold back.

A strange feeling passed through Sai. Some of it might have resembled fear, but it took a moment for him to realize that the feeling might actually be anticipation.

I took on Danzo's team. I resealed a Jinchuuriki. I'm about to face someone strong.

Under Sakura's influence...how far have I really come?

He put on his best smile. "I wouldn't expect any less from the Hyuuga prodigy."

He could have sworn he saw a smile pass over Neji's face, however briefly. The proctor lowered his hand, and with that the fight began.

What Sai would never admit was that he pulled part of his strategy from watching Naruto's performance. He needed a way to distract Neji long enough to sketch one of his larger birds, and this method had to leave his hands free. While he certainly didn't have the chakra required to pull out a hundred shadow clones like Brainless did, he could definitely spare enough chakra to make...well, technically four, but watching his reserves for this fight could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Sai settled for two instead, throwing his hands together to bring the clones to life. They leapt forward, drawing their blades to attack. Sai, however, did not focus on the end result. Instead he put his brush to paper, drawing the form of a bird as fast as his wrist could allow. The bird sprang to life just as Neji finished dealing with the second shadow clone, and though he was quick to try and lunge Sai's way, he wasn't quick enough. With a push of its wings, the inked bird took flight, Sai resting upon its back. The ceiling was high enough that Sai could float at least ten feet above Neji's head at a leisurely pace.

"Smart." He heard Neji say. The boy had not even turned to watch Sai's circuit; granted, he didn't need to move his head to see with the Byakugan. "So you're a long-distance fighter. If you stay out of the range of the Gentle Fist, you won't have to worry about your chakra being sealed off."

"Of course." Sai replied. "I'd be foolish to fight a Hyuuga so close."

"Foolish indeed, though not impossible." Neji's head actually did turn with that statement, purposely looking towards Naruto up in the balcony. Naruto in turn gave Neji a grin that Sakura might have described as 'shit-eating'.

"I can only do it because I'm the best shinobi around, you'd better believe it!" Naruto answered. "Sai wishes he was as cool as me!"

"Oh? I wasn't aware you had been 'cool' to begin with."

"S-shut it, asshole!"

Sai let himself laugh as he began to sketch some smaller birds. It was time to see just how good the Hyuuga defense was. The birds took flight from the page and shot towards Neji at high speed. At first, Neji blocked the birds with his hands, hitting them one after the other with pinpoint precision and causing them to burst into small puddles of ink. Sai brought more birds to life at a time after that, attempting to overwhelm him. When there were too many birds to hit, Neji simply spun, expelling chakra around him to create a protective dome that hit all the birds at once.

"I've fought someone like you before." Neji spoke, continuing to block Sai's assault expertly even as he did so. "They were also a long-range fighter, using arrows to try and penetrate my defense. If not for a desperate move, I would have lost the fight. Even so, I nearly lost my life. When I recovered, I decided that I would never again be caught so off guard by someone who preferred that style of fighting. Thankfully, Lord Hiashi was willing to begin teaching me personally, and was happy to teach me a technique for just such an occasion."

With that, Neji came to a halt to face Sai. He thrust both of his hands forward, and Sai only just barely saw the air around the boy's hands begin to distort and push outwards towards him. He ducked downwards, narrowly avoiding the strong gust of air that had threatened to knock him off his bird.

He didn't remember anything about long-ranged Hyuuga attacks. Either he'd forgotten, or it was something new.

"That is the Vacuum Palm." Neji explained. "The force is strong enough to disrupt an opponent's vital organs. So long as I can see my opponent, it doesn't matter how far they are. I can hit them." The boy smirked. "And I can always see my opponent."

Cheeky. Sai wished he had a retort good enough for a comeback, but he was distracted from the thought by Neji aiming yet another of those devastating air strikes his way. The tables turned, and now Sai was desperately flying to escape Neji's attacks. More humorous was seeing the spectators ducking to avoid the strikes, especially those bratty Kage that had forced Sakura into this mess to begin with. Sai tried to linger on that side of the arena more often, if only so they couldn't get comfortable.

There was a plus side to Neji's technique, though. If he was going for offensive, he couldn't do that protective rotation. That meant Sai had openings of his own, so long as he could accurately time the rhythm of Neji's strikes. A person could only move their arm so fast, and between attacks there was just enough of a break for Sai to sketch out one bird. He waited until he had a dozen ready to spring on the page, and from there began the first true part of his plan.

All twelve birds sprang to life, and eleven of them shot towards Neji in a flash. Sai made sure they were spaced out; the last thing he wanted to do here was draw out the rotation again. He had the twelfth bird circle around towards Neji's backside, waiting for the opportune moment before aiming towards what Sai remembered to be the Byakugan blind spot. The bird hit true, and for the first time Sai saw his ink impact against the Neji's upper back. Neji flinched, stumbling forward, but the attack wasn't severe enough to end the match. Sai would need to land a lot more for that to happen.

He saw Neji hesitate, and Sai could almost see the thoughts going through his head. Had he found his blind spot? Was it luck? How had he found it so quickly?

Keep thinking about it. Sai urged. This won't work unless you start questioning it.

The dance continued, Sai ducking and weaving around Neji's attacks, and Neji knocking away Sai's birds, until an expertly timed bird hit the blind spot again, and again, and again. It couldn't be just Neji now, everyone who knew the Hyuuga here had to be thinking about it. How was Sai hitting him? Didn't Neji see it coming?

"How?" Neji finally demanded, panting heavily with the effort of the fight. He didn't elaborate further, but Sai knew exactly what he meant.

"How? That's a very good question." Sai answered. "I would ask your superiors about what information is being passed around about the Hyuuga. The answer might surprise you."

And there it was. The bait was set. He saw Neji's head whip towards Tsunade, who of course probably had no idea about the extent of what Danzo and Root knew. But now the word was out. Not only Neji had heard this, but Hinata as well, and both of them would now have good cause to approach Tsunade about how Sai had learned of the Hyuuga blind spot. He hoped Hinata would be able to put together the true plan. If Tsunade was forced to open an investigation into this, it would lead her directly to Root. From there, all the evidence they'd gathered could be used against Danzo in an official, Konoha-led inquiry.

Shikamaru had told them before that his plan would be to wait until they had enough evidence. From there, he would wait for the opportune moment to bring Root's activities to light. But there was no reason Sai couldn't provide him with that opportune moment, right?

They had evidence. They had due cause to investigate. And now all Sai had to do was survive a fight with what was looking to be a slightly pissed off Hyuuga.

The Vacuum Palm assault began again, and this time Sai noticed that Neji's anger and confusion had somehow allowed him to attack faster. He couldn't help but marvel at this. Time and time again, Danzo had told him that emotions only weakened a shinobi, but here Neji had only seemed to get stronger. He only barely had enough time to sketch more birds, and even then it was becoming increasingly difficult to manipulate Neji into leaving his blind spot open. This was slowly becoming a battle of stamina. Would Sai run out of ink before Neji ran out of chakra? Using the shadow clones had more than taken its toll on his reserves, and he had already been recovering from the chakra exhaustion he'd taken on during the second exam. If he kept using ink birds, then the battle would last far too long, and it would essentially be chance who outlasted whom. He needed to change up his strategy.

The ground was now covered in splotches of his ink. It was drained of chakra, of course, which meant that reusing it would require more of his own chakra, but if he planned this right, he'd only really need to use his chakra once, and the battle would be his. Sai continued to send the occasional bird Neji's way to distract him, but his true goal was now drawing long inked snakes. The snakes began to plop to the ground, one by one, slithering across the ink blotches that remained from Sai's destroyed birds and smearing it in a very specific pattern. It didn't take long for Neji to catch on, and the Hyuuga now dedicated time to stepping on snakes as they came near. This only served to aid Sai, however, as every crushed snake was more ink for him to use, and Neji couldn't attack all of the snakes and defend against the birds. Sai smiled, his plan starting to come together. One by one the snakes helped create brush strokes on the ground. The floor would be his canvas, and it was big enough for Sai to make whatever sort of seal his mind could think of. A chakra suppression seal would be good enough; if Neji couldn't disable his chakra points, that just left him with open-handed taijutsu. That alone wouldn't be nearly good enough to stop an onslaught of birds, or even some bigger inked animals if Sai was feeling like winning with style. All he needed was time and enough snakes to smear his design across the floor.

He noticed, about midway into the creation of his giant seal, that Neji had stopped attacking the snakes at his feet. The Hyuuga had instead decided to focus solely on the birds. Something about that triggered a warning within Sai, but he couldn't deduce in the heat of battle why Neji had decided to ignore Sai's plan. Was Neji throwing the match for him after all? Though there wouldn't be a real reason to complain if this was the case, Sai couldn't help being frustrated by the thought. He wanted to win, he realized, not just be given a win. He'd thought of a plan, he wanted to see if it would work. But pride wouldn't be a good enough reason to give up now. If Neji wanted to give up, then Sai would show him why that would be a very bad idea. The seal on the ground was nearly complete. All he had to do, risky as it was, was fall to the ground and push his chakra into the seal. With that, no more chakra for Neji.

His bird swung low, and he leaped for the edge of the seal, hands outstretched. But before his feet hit solid ground, he saw Neji turn straight for him, and then Sai realized all too late why Neji had been ignoring his snakes.

The Hyuuga had been waiting for him to head for the ground. And while Sai wasn't close enough to be on the receiving end of the Gentle Fist, he was in range of the Vacuum Palm. And Sai wasn't capable of dodging in midair.

...fuck.

The pressured air slammed into him with full force, and Sai felt his entire body thrust backwards with the power of the blow. Eventually, he was stopped, but only because his body was slammed against the wall of the arena with enough force to push all the air out of his lungs. He felt a biting pain in his abdomen. Neji had claimed the Vacuum Palm could disrupt internal organs, and now being on the receiving end of it, Sai couldn't doubt the truth of the statement. The damage was only further confirmed as he was forced to cough and the color red came up on his hand. His back was sore, at least one of his organs had been damaged, and now his legs were so shaky that he wasn't even sure if he could stand.

"It was an interesting gamble." Neji spoke, and Sai realized that his ears were ringing from the blow. "Using the ink on the ground to attempt to create a seal. But remember...I can always see my opponent. Your seal doesn't matter if you can't activate it, and for that you had to reach the ground."

Neji leaned backwards into a stance, and Sai recognized the move that Neji was preparing. The Sixty-Four Palms technique, which would seal a good majority of his tenketsu and make it near impossible to activate his seal.

Sai tried to move, desperate to not be on the receiving end of such a technique. But Neji moved faster, and Sai's world became pain once again as he felt Neji's strikes land true.

Two. Four. Eight. Sixteen. Thirty-Two. Sixty-Four.

Sai fell to his knees after the final blows hit, gasping for air as he felt his chakra pull back. A normal shinobi might have passed out, and it was only the severity of his Root training that kept him conscious. That was a devastating blow. The Hyuuga had truly perfected the Gentle Fist arts to a terrifying degree.

"I won't say the match is over yet." He heard Neji announce. "But you are no Naruto. I will give you a chance to forfeit now before I take this match further."

Gracious of him, perhaps. There was a very strong part of Sai that wanted to quit. It would have been smart to quit.

Is this the extent of my power?

He thought of Sakura and Gaara, inwardly disappointed even if they were too kind to outwardly show it. It had been a rough fight, sure, but after everything that was where he'd chosen to give up?

He thought of Danzo, reveling in the knowledge that his defected agent couldn't even find the strength to win one simple fight against an opponent whose weaknesses he knew.

He thought of...himself.

Could he look himself in the mirror every day, knowing he'd given up here?

As long as we move…

As long as we draw breath…

No.

Not here.

Not yet.

He wasn't sure where it came from, but Sai found strength. He pushed himself to his feet, charging forward towards Neji, who clearly hadn't been expecting further assault. Coupled with the exhaustion of having to dodge Sai's attacks for so long, Neji couldn't move fast enough to avoid Sai's punch. It hit the boy square in the nose, and Sai was certain that he heard a crack as Neji was pushed back.

"I don't need chakra to win." Sai insisted. He saw blood dripping down Neji's face: broken nose for sure. It was almost a shame; Neji had a handsome face, and even with Tsunade's healing there was a possibility it wouldn't look quite the same after. But Neji hadn't held back, so neither would he.

With that, Sai allowed himself to break rule number two of fighting a Hyuuga, and he engaged in close combat. Neji recovered quickly enough to try to defend, but the Gentle Fist hadn't been cultivated to stand well against the chaotic combat style that was born from desperation. For every defensive strike Neji landed, Sai would get in an equally fierce punch or kick in turn. All Hyuuga grace was lost as Neji was pushed backwards by the assault. With one ferocious stomach kick, Neji skidded back almost ten feet, and with the new distance both fighters came to a halt. Their breath was ragged, and both were barely able to stand.

Everything hurt. But in a strange way, Sai almost felt alive from the thrill of it.

"You're a good opponent." He told Neji. "It's almost sad that it's about to end."

To his surprise, Neji smiled at him in return. "I agree. I think I see it now...why Lee was always so desperate to fight Sakura after all this time."

Sai blinked in confusion as Neji forced himself into a fighting stance once more. He prepared himself in turn. He likely only had one more punch left in him, but he was going to make sure that punch had everything he had left to give.

"Someone like you would make a fine rival."

Sai could have sworn he felt something within him shift at such a declaration. Confusion almost stopped him from moving, but thankfully his instincts kicked in as Neji rushed forward, and he threw himself back into the fray, focusing all the energy he had left into one final blow.

He saw Neji's palm, outstretched, and then there was blackness.


Sai awoke in a bed, and he felt a familiar hand squeeze his own as he blinked and took in his surroundings. A hospital recovery room, by the look of things. He forced himself to sit up, despite Sakura's protests, and took in the damage he'd received. His abdomen didn't hurt as much as he remembered it, and though his hand was bandaged up, there wasn't much more that hurt other than the general exhaustion of the fight and his bruised tenketsu.

"You're finally awake, you big idiot." Sakura said fondly. "Your fight is going to cause quite a stink, you know."

"That was the intention." Sai replied. "I lost, I'm assuming."

"Nope. It was a draw. You both knocked each other flat."

It was technically better than a loss. Sai had faced down a Hyuuga and brought the fight to a draw. They were of equal strength. The thought of that made him smile.

"I see."

"However, Neji demanded that he speak with us the instant you woke up. Something about 'leaked Hyuuga secrets'?" Sakura's tone changed to that of reprimanding, and she leaned forward to gently flick Sai on the forehead. "When were you going to tell us you knew top secret clan information? I am going to get so much shit from Tsunade if this goes the wrong way."

"You won't." Sai insisted. "You were ignorant. I learned clan secrets from Root, and I honorably kept those secrets from you upon my defection. Besides, it's not my fault that I was shown those secrets during my initial training."

"...very true." Sakura admitted. "Shikamaru stopped by and called you 'troublesome', but I think he might actually be pleased with how things went. He told us we need to play our cards right. I actually think he's talking with Neji now."

"Recruiting him to the cause?"

"I think at this point we don't have a choice. Hinata knows what we're planning, but Neji doesn't, and if he pushes the wrong way that could jeopardize what we're working for."

"If Lee was smart enough to pick up on your political situation, Neji will be able to work it out with Pineapple."

"I guess that's also true." Sakura smiled warmly. "That was one hell of a fight, though. I couldn't stop cheering when you stood up after Neji's Sixty-Four Palms assault. You looked really...cool."

Sai felt a warmth spread through his cheeks, and he found he somehow couldn't bring himself to look Sakura in the eyes after that. He instead looked over to Gaara, who had a small smirk at the situation.

"...it was alright."

"Cooler than your fight, Grumpy." Sai retorted. "Oh, excuse me. You didn't have one."

Sakura laughed, and even Gaara cracked a smile at the joke. They chatted for a while longer until a knock sounded at the door, and without waiting Neji walked in. His nose was heavily bandaged, but much like Sai didn't look as though he was suffering from much more than chakra exhaustion.

"I've spoken with Shikamaru." He announced, a slightly nasally tone to his voice. "Coupled with some previous chats I've had with Hinata regarding her sudden and unusual desire to spend time at the Nara compound, I believe I've deduced the nature of your current situation. You are not just here for your neutrality pact, correct?"

Sakura nodded, but didn't say more.

"I will be speaking with Lord Hiashi about the information you revealed to me today, as will Hinata, but I can tell you now how the talk will go. Hiashi will go to Tsunade to demand answers, which she is no doubt expecting. However, given what I have just learned, I felt it wise to discuss with the three of you how best to proceed. In case we can help each other out."

"We have much to bring up with Tsunade ourselves." Sakura added. "Shikamaru and I both. While I have no doubt Lord Hiashi would prefer to get answers himself, I think in the long run it would be better if we all went together. We have one month before the third exams are scheduled to take place, and we have to use that month wisely. I think if you're willing to work with us, we can get you the answers that you need and...make things better for the village overall."

"I see." Neji replied. "Then Hinata and I shall wait until you are ready, though I would not recommend waiting long."

"That will all depend on Sai." Sakura looked back towards him. "When you can walk…?"

"I can probably walk now. The Konoha healers already did a good job on whatever Neji managed to hit."

"Just as long as you promise to take it easy."

They found Shikamaru, and despite the protests of the nurses, they left the Konoha hospital and made their way to Tsunade's office. Tsunade didn't look surprised to see them, and actually shepherded them away from the office and into a room that was lined with so many protective seals that Sai was amazed anyone could enter the room at all. To Sai's surprise, Kakashi was waiting for them, along with a shinobi that Sai recognized as another former Root agent, 'Kinoe'.

The door closed behind them, and Tsunade sat down with a distressed groan.

"When Kakashi told me you were trouble, Sakura Haruno, I didn't realize you were going to be this much trouble. Like teacher, like student."

"Maa, I suppose I was a worse influence than I thought." Kakashi added. "I was the one who was supposed to be investigating Root, Sakura. Not you."

Sakura flushed pink at this. "...how long have you known?"

"Not long." Kakashi replied. "Though now it makes sense why you were writing so many letters in your time abroad. Here I thought you were just my cute, popular student, but now I know you were plotting things behind our backs."

"Plotting good things!" Sakura protested. "If you knew about Root this whole time, then why have you allowed them to operate as they do? Do you even know half of what they get up to?"

"No." Tsunade admitted. "I don't."

And that was the problem, of course. Root operated on its own, never needing to ask permission from the Hokage. That was how it had been since the time of the Third. There was never supposed to be a need to question, as far as Danzo was concerned.

"I originally sent Kakashi out not just to retrieve you, Sakura, but to investigate the Root agent that had been sent to observe you. I don't think any of us could have predicted that you'd get this agent to defect. What we'd hoped for was Kakashi being able to get insight as to why Root was interested in you. We had thought it might really be Sasuke that they were after, but at the end of the day we just weren't sure. Danzo has always been secretive. Not even Hiruzen fully understood what went on behind his back."

"Danzo once ordered the Third's execution." Kakashi added. "But since the Third pardoned the attempt, there was little that could be done about it. Root has legal permission to operate as they please, and there's never been enough evidence for Tsunade to move against them without risking Danzo leading some sort of uprising. The two are on thin ice with each other as it is."

"And then today happens." Tsunade looked towards Sai and Neji both, shaking her head. "I get this announcement dropped on me in the middle of the exam preliminaries, and now I have several foreign Kage who are looking to see how I'm going to be dealing with this outburst. You directly accused me of leaking clan secrets...clan secrets that I don't even know."

"Not you." Sai countered. "Simply Neji's 'superiors'. Danzo falls into that category."

"So your plan is to turn the Hyuuga clan against Root, is that it?"

"No." It was Shikamaru who stepped forward now. "But it's going to be the start of a much bigger affair, and Lady Tsunade, your assistance in this is going to be paramount to our success."

"And just what is it you're trying to do?"

"Eliminate Root entirely."

There was a spell of silence, and Tsunade leaned forwards against the table, meeting Shikamaru's eyes directly.

"Alright, brat. Tell me exactly what it is you're planning."

1. Chapter 1 848 0 0 2. Chapter 2 3162 0 0 3. Chapter 3 2532 0 0 4. Chapter 4 2819 0 0 5. Chapter 5 2551 0 0 6. Chapter 6 2767 0 0 7. Chapter 7 2188 0 0 8. Chapter 8 1950 0 0 9. A Brief Intermission 949 0 0 10. Chapter 10 4053 0 0 11. Chapter 11 3692 0 0 12. Two Worlds Away (Intermission Part Two) 1320 0 0 13. Chapter 13 3836 0 0 14. Chapter 14 2739 0 0 15. Chapter 15 2390 0 0 16. Failures (Intermission Part Three) 2824 0 0 17. Chapter 17 3234 0 0 18. Chapter 18 6529 0 0 19. Chapter 19 4214 0 0 20. Three's a Drag (Intermission Part Four) 2630 0 0 21. Chapter 21 3341 0 0 22. Chapter 22 2924 0 0 23. Chapter 23 6969 0 0 24. Chapter 24 3801 0 0 25. Chapter 25 4158 0 0 26. Alliances (Intermission Part Five) 2667 0 0 27. Chapter 27 6918 0 0 28. Act One Epilogue 30 0 0 29. Act Two Prologue 1 0 0 30. Chapter 30 7214 0 0 31. Chapter 31 3687 0 0 32. Other Worlds, Other Minds (Int Part 6) 7031 0 0 33. Chapter 33 2703 0 0 34. Chapter 34 2734 0 0 35. Chapter 35 3454 0 0 36. Chapter 36 3502 0 0 37. Chapter 37 2836 0 0 38. Sparks (Intermission Part Seven) 3351 0 0 39. Chapter 39 3664 0 0 40. Chapter 40 4064 0 0 41. Chapter 41 4611 0 0 42. Chapter 42 3675 0 0 43. Chapter 43 3720 0 0 44. Alekhine (Intermission Part Eight) 1118 0 0 45. Chapter 45 6405 0 0 46. Chapter 46 6106 0 0 47. Chapter 47 4601 0 0 48. Chapter 48 4531 0 0 49. Chapter 49 3483 0 0 50. Coming Storm (Intermission Part Nine) 7177 0 0 51. Chapter 51 4480 0 0 52. Chapter 52 5763 0 0 53. Chapter 53 3722 0 0 54. Chapter 54 4708 0 0 55. Chapter 55 5271 0 0 56. Chapter 56 5280 0 0 57. Sounding Thunder (Intermission Part Ten) 2812 0 0 58. Chapter 58 9001 0 0 59. Chapter 59 4492 0 0 60. Chapter 60 5379 0 0 61. Chapter 61 9941 0 0 62. Chapter 62 8222 0 0 63. Chapter 63 4430 0 0 64. Chapter 64 4766 0 0 65. Chapter 65 7008 0 0 66. Chapter 66 5769 0 0 67. Act Two Epilogue 2816 0 0 68. The Months Between 9232 0 0 69. Act Three Prologue 96 0 0 70. Chapter 70 5300 0 0 71. Chapter 71 5013 0 0 72. Chapter 72 4580 0 0 73. Chapter 73 5123 0 0 74. Chapter 74 3585 0 0 75. Chapter 75 3963 0 0 76. Chapter 76 4747 0 0 77. Chapter 77 3671 0 0 78. Chapter 78 2347 0 0 79. Chapter 79 5030 0 0 80. Chapter 80 3135 0 0 81. Chapter 81 4371 0 0 82. Arbitrium (Intermission Part Twelve) 3793 0 0 83. Chapter 83 3219 0 0 84. Chapter 84 2189 0 0 85. Chapter 85 2827 0 0