Second Bite at the Cherry @sakinthra
Chapter 71

Maybe it was the shock and indignation on Sasuke's face, but Sakura didn't stop laughing right away.

She watched him stammer, clearly not expecting that reaction from her, and it just sent her into further hysterics. Of course, of course after all this time, after everything they'd been through, Sasuke would just walk in and demand a fight.

"D-don't laugh!" Sasuke demanded, stepping forward with a fist raised. "Do you think this is a joke? Do you think you're so much better now that you've fought Itachi?"

Ah, so that was it. He'd heard the rumors. Maybe Orochimaru had even used the rumors to his advantage. Sakura had left the village and gotten strong enough to face Itachi, so Sasuke had truly made the right decision in leaving too. If he could beat Sakura

(And he'd always been far stronger than she could ever reach. Was he really feeling threatened by her now? Did he, like Naruto, see her as a challenge?)

Sakura wiped her eyes and forced herself to be calm. "Hello, Sasuke." She spoke, still out of breath from laughter. "How are you? It's been a year since we've seen each other, hasn't it? You look well. What have you been up to? What sort of weird things has Orochimaru been teaching you?"

"None of that matters!" Sasuke hissed. "I told you, I want you to-"

"I believe..." Sai spoke up, stepping away from his corner with his usual fake smile on his face. "Sakura is attempting to demonstrate the proper etiquette upon seeing an old friend after a long period of absence. Perhaps you might attempt to reciprocate?"

This quieted Sasuke for a moment. He stammered again, glaring at Sai before turning his attention back to Sakura.


He didn't meet her eyes, then, and as Sakura watched him she saw it, saw the boy that got flustered whenever she or Naruto learned something embarrassing about him, whenever he'd missed something that should have been obvious, whenever a mission didn't go quite as planned…

There was still the boy from Team Seven, deep down in there. The boy she'd loved, once. Maybe Orochimaru had been trying to pull him away from such things, but...somehow, it was all still there.

And Sakura realized why a moment later, when an out of breath Karin came dashing into the room. "Sasuke…" She wheezed. "I told you not to harass her, she just got here!"

"I was...just saying hello."

"No, you were challenging her to a fucking fight, I know how you get." Karin jabbed Sasuke's chest with her finger. "You heard she was here and you got so damn excited that you didn't think she might be tired from the journey, huh? Or that she might not be in a position to just run around and spar with the Otokage's ward, that it might look bad on her?"


Sakura's laughter turned into giggles as the Uzumaki admonished him. Maybe a year ago she might have been jealous at how close Karin seemed to Sasuke, but at the moment it was simply humorous. Sasuke had gone from peacocking to withdrawing his head into his collar, looking more like a child being scolded and less the menacing Uchiha heir.

"Did you at least apologize to her?" Karin finished with a huff. Sasuke looked back to Sakura, and there was still a gleam in his eyes. She could predict exactly what was coming next.

"I'm not going to apologize for being honest. I want to fight her."

Karin groaned. "I swear, working with you is like herding cats. Sakura, you have got to tell me how you managed him."

"Um...I didn't." Sakura admitted sheepishly. "He and Naruto were at it all the time, actually. I kind of just stood by and watched."

"Well no wonder he's all worked up, if he's never seen you fight he's probably all sorts of confused about the rumors going around."

"I've seen you fight." Sasuke added. "You weren't…" He hesitated, but Sakura knew exactly what he'd planned on saying.

"I wasn't strong?" She finished for him. "I wasn't talented? I wasn't a genius? I wasn't a stubborn, chakra-pumped beast like Naruto? Well, believe it or not, Sasuke, I've been training too. If you thought I was just going to stand by while you and Naruto got stronger, then you're an idiot."

"...did you really fight Itachi?"

Sakura sighed. Of course he wouldn't let that go. Itachi, his brother, the reason he was here. "Yes." She answered honestly. "But it wasn't much of a fight. I accidentally found a rather stupid way out of his genjutsu and then I broke the cliff he was standing on. The fight almost killed me. Whatever you've heard, it was probably completely exaggerated."

Sasuke nodded, and in a way he looked relieved. "I see." He answered. "So you didn't…"

"Like I said. Not much of a fight. Still want to take me on?"

Sasuke met her eyes again, and this time she saw it: the flare up of the Sharingan. It sent shivers down her spine. She'd fought enough of those damn eyes, and she really, really wasn't keen on fighting them again. But despite this, something about Sasuke's response made her feel differently.


It was the same as when Naruto had declared his own desire to challenge her. The same as when she'd faced down Lee in the chuunin exams and had been able to match him, when once she'd thought his own strength unobtainable. There was something about her companions thinking her worthy of challenging that warmed her heart in a way she couldn't quite explain.

But...Karin made good points. She wasn't exactly tired from her journey, but she was certain that going around challenging other shinobi wouldn't exactly look good on her as an ambassador intending to keep a neutral position. Orochimaru probably wouldn't say no to the spar, in fact she figured he'd enjoy seeing his prodigy face up against her, or even just get a chance to see her own skills in action. But how would it reflect on her if she took up every challenge thrown her way? Or maybe she was looking at it wrong...maybe it would show other nations that she was strong?

She frowned, biting her lip as she considered things. But before she could even think of an answer, it was Sai that spoke up again.

"I don't know. What makes you think you're worthy of challenging our most esteemed Head Ambassador?"

Sasuke looked annoyed as he addressed Sai again. " you not know who I am?"

"I know you're the Uchiha scion, that you've trained under Orochimaru, and that you're not very respecting of privacy. It's more than you know about me. It's more than you even know about Sakura. It appears as though you have little idea of what she's done since you've parted ways. A truly good shinobi would have attempted to gather information to use to his advantage before challenging his opponent. You know…" Sai smiled again. "Asking her if she's been well. Asking about what she's gotten up to since you've parted ways. Asking who she's trained under. That proper etiquette I mentioned earlier."

"Sai…" Sakura warned. "You don't need to antagonize him…"

"Sai is right."

For the first time, Gaara spoke. He stood up from his seat, looking unusually angry as he moved to stand between her and Sasuke. "When we first met, you reminded me of myself. You only thought of one thing. I wasn't surprised when I heard you had left the village to seek power. I was only surprised that Naruto couldn't reach you as he reached me."

With a flourish, he unraveled the sand scroll on his back and slammed it onto the ground next to him, causing Karin to flinch.

"Sai asked if you were worthy of fighting Sakura. You think you've earned some sort of right to take her on. As if nothing you've done in the past matters. As if nothing you've done to her matters. You probably never even thought of her until you heard what she'd begun to do. Meanwhile, Sakura's never stopped thinking of you all this time. She has a lot to tell you. A lot of things you need to hear. But I don't think you're ready for that yet, if all you can think of is testing your mettle."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed, briefly, but his determined expression faltered. His Sharingan faded, and his eyes returned to their natural dark color.

" weren't supposed to come after me. You were supposed to stay safe."

"Like I said, you're an idiot if you think I'd just sit back and never change." Sakura answered in turn. "But I guess it makes sense, huh? I was always the one you and Naruto were protecting. Even when I tried to protect still had to come to my rescue. When I think back, it's little wonder you didn't think much of me. That you were annoyed by me. There's a part of me that's happy that you want to fight me, you know? But there's also a part of me that's...still angry. At you. At myself. At the world for not doing better by all of us. That's why I decided to become an ambassador, you know? I thought, if the world won't work for us, I'll make it work. So I trained. I learned. I got stronger. And I got chosen for something extraordinary. I thought if I got stronger, if I could walk at you and Naruto's side, that you'd accept me, but the truth is...I don't care if you accept me anymore. I'm strong, and I don't need to fight you to know it."

She stood, moving her way forward until she was standing directly in front of Sasuke. "You really want to fight me so badly? Then sit down with us for dinner and tell me how life has been for you. Then, when we're done, maybe I'll indulge you."

Sasuke let out another one of his 'hn' grunts, but did not protest.

Sakura wasn't surprised that dinner was a rice based dish, but she was surprised when the dish used a variety of Iwa spices to season the meat and sauces used with it.

"I figured you might miss a touch of home." Karin told her as they sat. "We do trade with Iwa when we can, so I figured I could pull some strings. I do it for Sasuke too, sometimes, whenever Orochimaru isn't dragging him to one of his little 'family dinners'."

Sasuke glowered at this, though Sakura got the impression it was more bad memories than from Karin specifically.

"I admit...this really isn't the impression I'd had of Otogakure."

"Good. I'm doing my damndest to fix Orochimaru's mess. If I wasn't here helping morale, he wouldn't have a village and he knows it. If he had his way, I doubt he'd keep any loyal shinobi, no matter how strong he is, considering he enjoys using anyone who crosses him as a test subject. And anyone who pleases him too."

"But not you?"

"I told him if he messed with me, he risks me not be able to make anymore Uzumakis. He wants to fuck around with my bloodline, he needs to not kill it off in the process. Naruto's the only other Uzumaki I know, and from what Sasuke told me, I don't know if I'm going to count on him to help me revive the clan."

"Oh really?" Sakura raised an eyebrow in Sasuke's direction. "You must be behind on your intel. Naruto's become a bit of a ladies' man since you left." Well...for one lady, at least, but if Ino could come to see Naruto's good qualities, Sakura didn't doubt others might as well. And Hinata had always had a crush on him, as long as she could remember.

"...I don't believe you." Sasuke retorted.

"You left. Someone had to fill the void, and Naruto is the Hokage's apprentice now."

"Hn." Sasuke answered. "That's...good."

"You know, I think he might actually faint if he heard you say that."

"It's what he wanted. Him forgetting about me was his best option."

"Oh, he definitely didn't forget." Sakura sighed. How could Naruto have forgotten? Especially not after Danzo, after learning everything that had happened to the Uchiha. And that led her to the most pressing dilemma yet.

How the fuck was she going to break all of this to Sasuke?

It was clear he didn't know. If he knew, he'd be demanding to know more from her. He wouldn't have settled for a dinner, wouldn't have simply asked her about her time with Itachi. Orochimaru likely knew, and must have worked hard to make sure Karin hadn't caught wind of the news herself. Why had Orochimaru kept it from Sasuke? Did Orochimaru fear what Sasuke would do if he knew? And if she told him now, before getting a proper chance to talk with Orochimaru, would that ruin any sliver of a chance she had of convincing the man to sign her treaty?

But telling Sasuke was the right thing to do. She'd come here mostly to do that, to give him that which had been stolen from his clan, to make sure he understood in full what Itachi had been forced to do…

There was one important factor to consider: she wanted them to be alone when she told him. She wanted it to be a private affair, so he could take the news how he wanted without fear of what others would think. So far, that opportunity had not arisen. Sakura decided then that if she could get Sasuke alone, she would tell him. And if that time didn't come before Orochimaru shoved her out of his village, she'd make time, regardless of the consequences.

"So...are your companions always this quiet?"

Sakura was broken from her thoughts by a question from Karin. Sure enough, Gaara was still glowering at Sasuke, and Sai was keeping to himself, though he gave a fake smile to Karin at her question.

"Gaara's attempting not to let his emotional baggage make an ass of him at the dinner table." He told them. "And I am enjoying a good meal."

"They're not usually this quiet." Sakura clarified as she picked at her food. She still wasn't quite sure what had gotten Gaara so sour. Was he really that upset with how Sasuke had treated her? It had been a while since she'd really talked much about Sasuke at all, before their training in Iwa, now that she thought about it. Had he been carrying a grudge all this time? In a way, Sakura could understand. Gaara had once traded blows with Sasuke and Naruto, who'd been protecting her. Maybe he was resentful of the fact that Sasuke had turned around and 'abandoned' her, after everything they'd been through. Maybe, in a strange way, their roles had reversed. Now it was Gaara who was working to protect her, and Sasuke that was itching for a fight. It was admittedly a frustrating turnaround, if she looked at it from Gaara's perspective.

Well...she needed to break the ice, then. Otherwise it was going to be an awkward dinner.

"So...what do you think of Oto, Sasuke? Do you prefer it to Konoha, now that you're here?"

Sasuke looked at her, not speaking at first. Sakura wondered if he thought she would judge her for his answer.

"'s the same." He finally replied. "Same sort of people. Same sort of living."

Sakura had a feeling that wasn't his real answer, but she wouldn't pry where he wasn't comfortable.

"That's good to know." She answered. "My fear with Oto being such a new village was that it might be difficult to integrate it into the treaty, if its hierarchy was too different."

"If it works, it works." Karin shrugged. "I'm not opposed to changing it up, but people like to follow what's familiar. And Orochimaru was always a bit jaded that 'Sarutobi-sensei' favored Namikaze over him for the Hokage position. He wanted to be a Kage, so he just up and made himself one. I can kind of respect the thought."

"Respect? From Karin Uzumaki? I never would have thought it possible."

Sakura almost flinched as Orochimaru's voice seemed to sound directly next to her ear. She felt Gaara's sand rush to curl around her and could hear Sai shuffle for his weapons. Orochimaru just chuckled.

"So on edge? Is it possible that the ambassadors feel unwelcome in my home? Karin, you clearly haven't been doing your best to accommodate them."

It was Karin's response that brought Sakura away from her shock. The girl, somehow, had managed to roll her eyes at Orochimaru's entrance, as though she was used to the man crashing her dinner.

"Have you considered, Lord Orochimaru, that you're a creepy bastard even at the best of times?"

"It's possible that it was mentioned to me once or twice." Orochimaru answered, and Sakura couldn't help but shiver again as she heard the man run his tongue across his lips. "Forgive me, but I couldn't help but get excited when I heard that my Sasuke might be showing off his skills for our guests."

She didn't like how Orochimaru referred to Sasuke possessively, and judging by the look on Sasuke's face, he didn't like it either. But he didn't protest it, so Sakura held her tongue.

"We were talking about potentially having a friendly match, if you would permit it." She answered. "I know that Sasuke is quite eager to show off everything you've been teaching him."

"Is he now? Well doesn't that just warm the heart?" Orochimaru pulled himself into a seat with an unnatural smoothness, and Sakura caught Kabuto lurking nearby out of the corner of her eyes. She wished, for a brief moment, that she'd had a bit of Sai's emotional training, or even some of Gaara's practiced death glare. Both of them hadn't almost squeaked at the sound of the Sannin behind them.

"So, which of you will be playing with Sasuke later?"

Sakura opened her mouth, but Sai answered before she could.

"I will be."

Sakura whipped her head towards him in disbelief. Just what the hell was he thinking? Even Sasuke seemed baffled at the response, and said as such.

"I don't care about you."

"Then handling me shouldn't take much of your time." Sai replied with a smile. "But I have to make sure you're worth the Head Ambassador's time, you see. I wouldn't want her to waste her talents on someone who couldn't even get past her bodyguard. It's the same way I couldn't just walk up to Lord Orochimaru and demand a spar, not without proving myself in some fashion. If Sakura doesn't have to lift a finger, she shouldn't."

There was more to it. Sakura could tell by now from Sai's tone that he was choosing his words quite carefully. He hadn't spoken up before at Sasuke's initial challenge...only now that Orochimaru had shown interest in watching.

Ah, it was obvious now. Sai was trying to make sure she didn't show her abilities to Orochimaru unnecessarily. Orochimaru was, at the moment, more a potential enemy than a potential ally. The less he knew about her and the abilities Jashin had given her, the better. Sasuke, however, Sai seemed to not care as much about. Maybe he was banking on the fact that Sasuke had been Sakura's teammate, once upon a time, and was no friend of Orochimaru.

She gave Sasuke a small shrug. "It works for me. If you can get through Sai, I'll let you have a round with me."

Sasuke was soured by the change, that much was obvious, but Sakura could explain the politics of it later. For now…

"Dinner has been lovely, but I'd hate to waste your time, Lord Orochimaru. Perhaps, once dinner has settled, we can move on to Sasuke and Sai's spar?"

"Yes." Orochimaru's grin widened. "I would very much like to see that."

It was no surprise to Sakura that Orochimaru had plenty of underground training arenas. She had no doubt Sasuke was familiar with all of them. Equally less surprising was that these arenas had balcony sections for spectators. Sakura wondered with an inward shudder how often Orochimaru came to watch Sasuke train. There was a twisted logic to the man wanting to keep a close eye on what he considered his 'future body'...but that didn't make it any less horrible.

Still, it provided a convenient location to watch Sasuke and Sai face off. The two boys were now standing in the middle of the arena, facing each other. Sasuke looked annoyed, still, at having been denied the fight he really wanted. Sai, for being about to face down yet another Sharingan wielder, looked the picture of calm.

"Please don't hold anything back." Sai asked. "And I'll be sure to give you the same honor."

"You must be desperate for this fight to be over quickly." Sasuke answered in turn.

"Perhaps. I'm sure the student of Lord Orochimaru will prove a more than adequate challenge for me." Sai looked up at Sakura with a smile. "Call the start, would you?"

"Um...sure." Sakura blinked. "On the count of three?"

Neither of the boys moved. Sakura knew, however, that Sai was more than ready, and she had no doubt Sasuke was as well.


It happened so fast that she almost missed it. Sasuke, no doubt intending to end the fight as quickly as possible, had pumped chakra to his legs and thrown himself forward with incredible speed. It might have worked, too. Sasuke had gotten even faster since she'd seen him last.

But Sai had literally been training against opponents that threw themselves wholeheartedly into battle, and it was Sasuke's bad luck that Sai had also decided to lunge forward with all the speed his chakra could give him, swinging his blade in a horizontal arc towards Sasuke's neck. It was likely only thanks to the Sharingan that Sasuke was able to dodge it all, and after they passed, each skidded to a halt at the opposite sides of the arena.

"Oops." Sai said nonchalantly. "Were you expecting me to stand still? My apologies."

Sasuke didn't answer, and it took him only moments to recover before he was lunging for Sai again, though this time not quite as fast. Sakura could see that his attitude had abruptly changed. No longer did Sasuke look annoyed; in fact, he looked intrigued. Sai had shown enough skill, it seemed, to make him interested in the fight.

The two clashed again. This time Sasuke had drawn his own katana, and Sakura realized that she was seeing Sasuke use kenjutsu for the first time since she'd known him. It was interesting to consider that someone here was teaching him how to wield a blade. (She just really couldn't picture Orochimaru going through katas with anyone, let alone Sasuke, but who else would Orochimaru have allowed to teach Sasuke anything?) Sasuke had gotten skilled, there was no doubt, but in kenjutsu he'd gotten a bad mashup with Sai. The Hageshisai loved to spar with sharp objects, and a katana was a lot simpler than the trick weapons he was no doubt used to dodging around. Not only that, but Sai was likely more aggressive than anyone Sasuke was used to facing. Sai risked getting small cuts in order to play at getting larger hits on his opponent. Not even a minute into the fight, Sai managed to rake the tip of his blade through Sasuke's chest, drawing first blood.

(Sasuke was lucky, Sakura thought, since the Hageshisai typically used painful poisons on their weapons in real fights.)

Despite the minor wound, Sasuke did not lose face. His Sharingan whirled, and he simply started up the spar anew. He wasn't using any jutsu, Sakura noted. Only the blade and whatever chakra he needed to keep pace with. Was he trying to preserve? Hoping to be able to use jutsu in the fight against her, should he win this one? Or maybe it was a statement: he didn't need to waste chakra defeating Sai.

"Such an aggressive fighting style." Orochimaru commented next to her, watching the battle with that eerie predatory gaze. "I would have expected a member of Root to act more cautiously."

"He's not Root anymore." Sakura countered. "At the moment, no one is."

"True, too true. I'd had my suspicions that you'd found some sort of training in Yugakure, but I admit, I couldn't quite determine what until I saw that necklace of yours. He fights very similarly to an old acquaintance of mine."

Hidan, Sakura thought to herself. The two hadn't been part of Akatsuki together for long, but it had apparently been long enough. And it made sense...why wouldn't Orochimaru have been drawn to Hidan's immortality?

She kept her eyes on the clashing blades below, but now her mind was on the conversation. Orochimaru was speaking to her without her prompting it. This was her chance. A chance to continue to intrigue him.

"I would ask why you haven't sought out the enclave yourself, but I suppose the draw of Kaguya's power would be far more appealing."

"Would you rather follow a god or become one?"

"Being a god comes with quite a lot of responsibility."

"I wouldn't expect to hear an ambassador complaining of responsibility. It seems to me that you're simply lacking in ambition."

"Now that's one I haven't heard yet." Sakura couldn't help but chuckle. Everyone else seemed to think she was too ambitious. "I am trying to unify the shinobi world."

"And wouldn't it be so much easier if you were a god?"

"So what, are you saying you intend to be competition?"

"Was there ever any doubt?" Orochimaru's grin returned, though his eyes were still fixated on the battle below. "Well, I had doubts, when I heard about your intent to run around and make peace. I thought it a boring activity. And yet…"

"And yet." Sakura agreed. It was strange, hearing Orochimaru talk so...nonchalantly. He'd been chatty when she'd met him in the Forest of Death, but she'd considered that an intimidation tactic. Maybe he was actually just...naturally wordy? Or, more likely, he liked hearing himself talk.

"I know that you have a lot to talk to my Sasuke about."

Sakura felt herself freeze. Of course, of course Orochimaru would have known she planned to tell him, she'd been stupid not to think he would.

"He wouldn't believe it from me, you know. Even though I've never been anything but honest with him."

Sakura doubted that. "You do have something of a reputation."

"Naturally." Orochimaru gave a small bow of his head. "But you might give me a run for my money, Sharingan Breaker."

Sakura inwardly groaned. Of course that nickname had stuck. Orochimaru might have even started it, if only to fuel Sasuke's desire to get stronger. Sakura faced down Itachi, Sakura beat Itachi…

"I suppose there's worse nicknames to have."

"But you can see, of course, why your abilities might interest me. Despite what some may have told you, I'm a reasonable man, Sakura Haruno."

...wait, where was he going with this?

"First Itachi, then Danzo. No pushovers, either of them. Each equipped with...similar assets."

He'd known about Danzo's Sharingan, of course he did. Sakura had to wonder if Orochimaru's research had helped Danzo craft that disaster of an arm.

"I'm admittedly curious. You have information that intrigues me. And you desire something from me. I could make this visit very easy for you."

Sakura tensed. She knew where this was going now, even if she hadn't been able to see before. Of course Orochimaru would be interested in that.

"Simply tell me how you managed to overcome the genjutsu of the Sharingan, and I shall humor your little peace treaty."

This was a man who had faced down Itachi Uchiha and lost. Who coveted the Sharingan, but now knew that it could be overcome. Orochimaru was worried, Sakura realized. Worried that if he took Sasuke's body, there would still be people capable of challenging him. Her reputation had made her a threat without her even knowing it.

She didn't really have anything unique in either of those scenarios. Jashin had helped her purge her body of chakra to break Itachi's technique, and Danzo's Izanami had been broken with simple logic. But Orochimaru didn't know that. He no doubt thought it was something fancy. A bloodline limit, maybe, or a jutsu Sakura had invented that granted her a measure of protection. Orochimaru needed the knowledge, or else his 'future reign' would never be secure.

Sakura had something Orochimaru wanted. But...was it worth giving? Her treaty signed, yes, but if Orochimaru learned her tricks for fighting Sharingan...what would that mean for the future?

"I...will need time to consider your offer, Lord Orochimaru, generous as it is." Sakura stammered an answer, attempting to turn her focus back to the fight in order to steel her own nerves. "A shinobi's techniques are their life, after all."

"How true that is. And you are my honored guest, of course. You may stay here until you give your answer."

Underhandedness covered by false generosity. What Orochimaru was truly saying was that her welcome would be up the instant her mind was made. And Orochimaru would likely not tolerate much delay.

She swallowed hard, but nodded. "I thank you for your generosity, Lord Orochimaru. I shall get you your answer as quickly as I am able."

It would do, for now. And in the meanwhile, there was a battle raging below, a fury of sword swipes back and forth across the arena. Sai was strong, but so was Sasuke, and Sakura wondered if the battle would simply come down to a matter of stamina. A battle of wills, and all the while she was fighting a battle of her own.

Give Orochimaru my secrets to countering the Sharingan...or fail in winning Otogakure to my treaty, possibly having to bank on Karin one day taking up the Kage mantle?

She'd come here with little hope of getting Orochimaru to sign it at all. Now that there was a tangible option in her grasp...Sakura was even more uncertain.

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