Commentary on Finesse, as requested by redbrunja :) ((sorry it took awhile)) commentary in bold.
Five: Sakura was going to kill whoever thought Sai would be excellent for a diplomatic mission
“Has your mind always performed so poorly?” Came the flat, inquisitive voice to Sakura’s left followed immediately by a spray of tea across from her, which was recently spurted out of a daimyo’s mouth.
She paled, and sent an elbow into her partner’s side harshly, “Sai!” She gasped in horror at the shinobi who had just insulted the main financial backer of Konoha, “Apologize to Matsumoto-sama right now!”
I'm kind of fascinated with how hidden village's economies are run. Due to the instability of the system, I figure that there's a lot of schmoozing and general ass-kissing done by nin. Customer service skills, and all that :)
Sai turned and blinked a few times, before thankfully nodding and lowering his head in respect. “My apologies, Matsumoto-sama, for drawing attention to your faulty mind.”
Sakura’s own etiquette was thrown to the wind as her jaw dropped in sheer awe. She had expected that something like this would happen- what was Tsunade-shishou thinking, sending him on a diplomatic mission?!- but Sai had single handedly destroyed the peaceful relationship between Konoha and the lord of the fire country with one sentence.
I think Sakura would make an excellent diplomat. She was the natural mediator between Sasuke and Naruto (when Kakashi wasn't around) and it's been shown that she's observant and able to pick up on subtlety very easily (her deducting that there were only two bells for the bell test, being the 'smart guy' of the group). And, when all else fails, she has two very convincing fist-sized incentives.
Matsumoto Junichi was the current ruler of the fire country, and as such, the shinobi village’s most important client. Sakura had been ordered to go for a routine meeting on next year’s financing. Tsunade had acquired an odd glint in her eye when she suggested that Sai come along. Sakura was a bit wary of this at first, having been on the receiving end of Sai’s unintentional rudeness before, but for the majority of the meeting he had remained a silent observer. Until, that is, Matsumoto had mentioned cutting several academy training programs from the budget, then Sai had decided to finally contribute to the conversation.
Sakura figures this is another approach towards Sai's emotional development. She concludes (wrongly) that Tsunade thinks that by having Sai come with her to a meeting he will see what Konoha has to offer (the non-ROOT portion anyways). In reality, Tsunade just wants Matsumoto to feel some of the frustration he's been putting her through by routinely cutting the budget on a whim.
“What did you say to me?” Puffed the daimyo in righteous indignation, fat cheeks expanding with hot air now that the tea he had been sipping daintily was gone from them.
Even though his eyebrows were furrowed, his smile remained, “I’m sorry, I did not realize that you suffer from a hearing impairment as well as stupidity,” he turned towards Sakura, “Perhaps you should address him, Hag? You always are unbearably loud.”
“Shut up Sai!” She yelped.
Sai grinned, “See? Surely you can hear her despite your several mental deficiencies?”
Matsumoto’s nostrils flared, “Never, in all my years-”
“-which must be substantial, considering how old you are now.” Sai agreed, nodding sagely.
He was trying to be respectful. Really.
The lord halted his tirade, making some sort of odd strangled noise, “How dare you-!”
Sakura noticed a few of the lord’s body guards were fighting back smiles Matsumoto's been cutting their paychecks back too ;), and she cleared her throat, “Matsumoto-sama, please forgive Sai, he‘s, um,” she honestly couldn’t come up with an excuse for Sai being Sai.
Matsumoto’s glare then zeroed in on Sakura, “I never would have suspected that anyone, let alone a Hokage’s prized apprentice, would lack the common knowledge of civil courtesy-”
I like the idea that Sakura's making herself into a legend and that even bigwigs are starting to acknowledge it :o)
“You just spit tea out of your mouth,” Sai observed mildly, with the detached manner of someone relying solely on book learning and completely lacking in the common sense department, “According to most customs, that is seen as a breach of civil courtesy-”
“Sai. Not. Helping.” Sakura growled between clenched teeth.
The lord’s face quickly looked like a puckered lemon, “I could have you killed for such impudence.”
Sai plastered on his fake smile, “That would not be the best solution, as it would cost more money for my replacement’s training and you seem horribly…” He paused, obviously toying with a few words in his mind, before turning to Sakura, “Is the word tramp-like?”
Matsumoto appeared to be turning purple with repressed rage, and Sakura bashed her palm against her face.
“Cheap, Sai. The word is cheap.” She was too mortified to respond with anything other than a correction. She had doomed the village. Correction, Sai had doomed the village.
Sakura's getting used to Sai's attempts at euphemisms, and can pick up on what he's trying to communicate :o)
The artist shinobi seemed deep in contemplation, “However, if the Academy was given more funding, then your decision to kill me would be less moronic, since training regiments would be easier to come by.”
His nostrils flailed, “Get this utter waste of a shinobi out of my sight!” He demanded to two of his security guards, before rounding on Sakura again, “And you can tell your beloved shishou that I will undoubtedly be increasing training with an emphasis on diplomatic customs,” And now he's increasing the budget on a whim, it's a wonder how the place functions there were tiny droplets of saliva hanging from his jowls as he yelled, and for a moment he eerily resembled Pakkun, “Under no circumstances am I allowing this travesty,” At the statement an angry thumb was pointed at a totally oblivious Sai, “of the shinobi nations to occur again!”
Sakura stood up quickly to bow in apology, but she was gripped on both biceps rather tightly by some very large security guards. Somewhere between being forcibly removed from the meeting room and watching Matsumoto froth like a pit bull eating shampoo, Sakura realized that the daimyo had demanded more training, not cutbacks, as a result of Sai’s horrible behavior.
She stared wide-eyed at the artist nin, who was calmly smiling while being dragged out by two even larger men, and quickly drew a conclusion.
“Tsunade-shisou is a genius.”.Sakura gives her teacher too much credit sometimes XD