The Missing Hokage

The Missing Hokage

01: Complicating Matters


Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Any ideas or characters you do not recognize from the anime or manga, unless stated otherwise, are probably mine. This disclaimer applies to all chapters and shall not be repeated.

Author's Preface: Firstly, this story is done in answer to a challenge posted by Perfect Lionheart (author profile: 1318171). In accordance with his challenge, this story will follow a general outline that he has set for things he would like to see happen under this scenario. If you haven't heard of him, look up his story Chunin Exam Day, which you should probably do anyway seeing as this story will be borrowing bits and pieces from that. While it would be helpful to have some background information on where some things come from, it will not be necessary in order to read this. And finally, as a few of my past readers know, I have a bad habit of starting something and either not finishing or taking forever to update (sorry Ken, this is distracting me from BiBtH for a while). This is for several reasons: I'm lazy, I lack motivation most days, I am easily distracted by anything new and shiny, and I love reading. Do not pester me for updates, it won't help. Creative criticism is always welcome but idiocy will be ignored. And now that I've bloated the word count enough with author's notes and wasted a minute or two of your life, I'll let you get on to what you came here for.


"You want me to what?" Tsunade asked calmly, discreetly pinching herself to make sure that she hadn't fallen asleep in a sake-and-paperwork induced stupor on her desk again. The mild bit of pain she received told her that she was not dreaming, though it did not rule out the possibility of hallucination. That had to be the explanation. There was no other way to explain her current situation—especially since she'd already checked for genjutsu twice.

Tsunade's day had started out much the same as nearly every other day since her return to Konoha and subsequent sentencing—no, appointment—to the position of Hokage. The blond Sannin had woken early that morning to Shizune shaking her awake, after showering and dressing she had eaten a small breakfast and made her way to the office (she still could not think of it as her office), and she had looked over the morning paperwork with Shizune before going down to the mission assignment office. It was there that her day had taken a deviation from the norm when a messenger informed her that her presence was required in the council's meeting chamber. It was there that whatever hopes she'd had that today would be simply another day of dull drum while waiting for Naruto to return and brighten up her miserable life were dashed to bits.

Homura interrupted her thoughts, repeating what his once-teammate Koharu had proposed to their Hokage. "We wish for your support in removing Uzumaki Naruto from Konoha's shinobi force. We are aware of your... affection for the boy, and so out of respect for our new Hokage we will not pursue his execution. However, we want him exiled from Konoha, never to return unless called upon by this council or the Hokage."

Tsunade nodded slowly, as though contemplating the older man's words. In reality, her mind was working furiously towards finding a way out of this situation, for herself and for Naruto. "Why should I go along with this proposal? Due to the Oto/Suna invasion and our continued 'housecleaning' in an attempt to weed out more double agents like Kabuto, our shinobi forces have been depleted to an all-time low. We've been forced to reactivate many retired shinobi to compensate for this loss. We can not stand to lose even one capable shinobi, especially one who has the potential to surpass even Yondaime," Tsunade argued, attempting to buy time. Beside her, Shizune leaned over and whispered a word into her ear. "And let us not forget Akatsuki. Exiling Naruto would remove him from our protection and give them the opportunity to gain the Kyuubi. And as much of a threat as you feel Naruto may pose with Kyuubi sealed away within him, I assure you that Akatsuki with an un-sealed Kyuubi poses even more of a risk."

Koharu sneered. "We are well aware of Akatsuki and the threat they pose. Our information leads us to believe that even should the boy be exiled, they would not come after him for some time. This would give us time to prepare for whatever folly they have in mind and with Uzumaki on the run and not drawing them down upon our village, it may even allow us to make a preemptive strike against them to shut them down before they can cause us problems."

"That still doesn't answer my question," Tsunade pointed out.

This time, it was Danzou who spoke, confirming Tsunade's suspicions that while Koharu may have proposed the idea, Danzou was the real driving force behind it. "If you do not agree to exile Naruto and end his term as a shinobi of Konoha, we will be forced to convene a full council and propose that we not only remove him from the shinobi corps, but he be executed as a threat to Konoha and all of Fire Country. And while we realize that the council may not dismiss or execute a shinobi under the control of the Hokage without the Hokage's permission, getting the Fire Lord to overrule you would not be difficult."

"We are not, however, without compassion. We offer you this chance to possibly save the boy's life. While we will not pursue having him executed if you agree to this, what happens to him outside of the walls of Konoha will be none of our concern," Homura continued. "It is this council's understanding that Uzumaki, along with Kurenai's Team 8 is currently out on a mission and is not due back until tomorrow. We will give you three days, including today, to make your decision. If you choose to agree to our terms, Uzumaki must leave the village by nightfall of the third day. If he is still within the walls of Konoha beyond that time, he will be detained by ANBU to await the Fire Lord's decision."

"If we have not heard your answer by dusk of the third day, we will assume you will not agree to help us and ANBU will be put into position to detain the boy should he not leave by nightfall. Whether you tell him or not is up to you, however, should you not agree by dusk of the third day if Uzumaki Naruto leaves he will be marked as a missing-nin and hunted as such," Koharu explained before waving in the general direction of the door. "This council is done for the day. You are dismissed."

Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Tsunade nodded and stood, striding calmly from the meeting chamber back to the Hokage's office. As soon as Shizune closed the door behind her, Tsunade's temper finally boiled over. "THOSE FUCKERS!"

Shizune cringed as her sensei's foot passed through the most recent in a line of new desks since Tsunade's appointment to the position of Hokage. Instead of breaking in half or flying through a wall and halfway over Konoha like some of those before, this one exploded into wood fragments. Splinters and sawdust rained down around the room for a moment, along with several stacks of official documents and the contents of what had once been a desk. "Sensei?" Shizune asked carefully, after giving the older woman a moment to compose herself.

"Shizune, get me Jiraiya now," Tsunade ordered, dusting off her chair and plopping down in it. It was in that moment that inspiration struck—or maybe it was just the splinter that she'd missed digging into her ass. Either way, the older woman stood and motioned for Shizune to stop. "Hold on a minute. Forget about Jiraiya. Let's go for a walk," she stated, leading her confused apprentice out of the tower.

"A walk?" Shizune asked as the pair made their way towards a park near the town's west entrance. "Tsunade-sama, aren't you concerned for Naruto's safety? The council plans—"

Tsunade cut the younger woman off. "I am. I may have an idea, but I didn't think the office would be the best place to discuss it," she said, coming to a stop in front of a park bench facing the gate and sitting. A short distance away, a trio of kids she recognized as the Konohamaru Corps were busily painting graffiti onto a park bench. "HEY YOU BRATS! Cut that crap out!" she shouted, scaring the trio off. Motioning for Shizune to join her, she continued. "Before I say anything, how do you feel about this?"

Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, Shizune hugged Tonton to her chest. "Naruto is... like the annoying little brother or nephew I never wanted, never knew I needed until I met him. What the council is doing is wrong, bordering on treason., but we can't bring them up on charges for it unless we have some evidence to use against them that will sway the rest of the council against the ones responsible. If it were up to me, we would take Naruto and leave this place for good. But you can't, you've got your responsibilities as Hokage to uphold and I... you wouldn't survive a day without my help."

Tsunade smirked. "I'll have you know I'm not some helpless old woman—despite that brat arguing to the contrary. But I think you hit the nail on the head. Why can't we leave? Naruto is the only reason I came back to this place. The more of this crap I see, the more convinced I am that maybe Orochimaru is right and this place isn't worth saving any more. And if they're going to treat my family like shit, then I plan to return the favor."

"Tsunade-sama, you can't be thinking about..."

Tsunade nodded. "You once said you would follow me anywhere. Are you still sure about that?"

"Yes," Shizune answered. "You realize that if you do this, you're effectively agreeing to raise a child? I mean, sure, he's not a baby or anything but still..."

Tsunade chuckled, turning her eyes towards the gate as a flash of orange there caught her eye. "Naruto can look after himself. He's been doing it since he could walk, after all."

"True," Shizune agreed, following her sensei's line of sight and smiling at the sight of the team approaching the gates. "They're back a day early. And they look kind of beat up."

"If we're going to do this, we need a plan," the older woman pointed out. "The only reason Jiraiya and I were able to live away from Konoha for so long is because the old man allowed us to. Without someone like him around, we'll be declared missing-nin."

After a few moments of thought while watching Naruto and Team Kurenai interact, Shizune shot a sidelong glance towards her mentor. "You know, you are Hokage. Any orders you give before resigning from the position must be upheld by the next Hokage. And if you were to name a successor, then you would be mostly sure of who was coming in after you. Jiraiya would be willing to go along with anything you told him, if he were to actually accept the position."

Realization dawned on Tsunade and the woman smirked. "You're right. That must have slipped my mind," she mumbled, turning a suspicious eye towards her student who she was almost certain had said something about the color of her hair. "Here's what we'll do. I want you to start gathering up A and B-ranked out-of-town missions that have already gone past my desk to the mission office. If you have to, tell Iruka you need to check over them to make sure I didn't screw something up and mis-rank one. It happens often enough to be believable. While you're doing that, I'll see about preparing supplies and getting some study material for Naruto." Standing, Tsunade took her assistant's hand and pulled her up from the bench. "Come on, let's get back to the office before they do. I want to debrief them personally."

Shizune followed her sensei back to the Hokage tower, throwing one last glance over her shoulder at the returning team. Kurenai trailed behind her team, hands behind her head and obviously enjoying the show they were putting on. Ahead of her, the Aburame seemed to be ignoring his teammates for one of his many kikai, this one perched on his finger and apparently holding a conversation.

The Inuzuka and his dog were in front, along with Naruto, with the Hyuuga girl to the blond's side and a pace behind. Naruto and Kiba were laughing about something, and every now and then Hinata would peek up from watching her feet to eye Naruto, blush, then look back down. It was during one of these glances that the young Hyuuga noticed Shizune observing from some distance ahead of them. Realizing she'd been caught at her favorite past-time, the girl blushed harder and turned her head to the side, studiously ignoring the world around her. Shizune giggled, catching back up to her sensei and leaning closer to her to she could speak softly, as they were nearing a more crowded part of the town. "I think our Naruto-kun has an admirer."

Raising an eyebrow, Tsunade started to turn and look only to be stopped by Shizune. "No, don't look! She'll notice. She already spotted me."

Tsunade sighed, rolling her eyes. "Oh fine. At least tell me who it is."

"The Hyuuga girl on Kurenai-san's team. Hinata, I think."

"Oh, her," Tsunade nodded. "She is kind of cute. And a Hyuuga too, and we know she has the Byakugan," she trailed off in thought. After a moment, Shizune turned her gaze to observe her sensei and paled when she recognized the smirk on the older woman's face. "You know, I've been wanting to take on an apprentice in their generation. I was leaning towards Haruno, since she has near-perfect chakra control, but a Hyuuga is fine too..."

"Tsunade-sama, you wouldn't," Shizune gasped but was forced to cut any protests she had short as they entered the administration building.

"Shizune, why don't you take care of the mission scrolls while I head back to my office? When Team Kurenai gets in, you can bring them up," Tsunade suggested loud enough for Iruka, who had been assigned to mission-room duty, to hear.

"Naruto's team is back? They weren't due in until tomorrow at the earliest," he pointed out, the worry evident in his voice.

Shizune nodded in answer to Iruka's question, stepping around Iruka's desk and digging through the cabinet for the mission scrolls. "Yeah, we just saw them coming in. They should be here in a few minutes. Don't worry though, they didn't look too worse for wear." Hearing Iruka sigh in relief, Shizune couldn't help herself. "Well, at least no one seemed to be missing any limbs."

Iruka went rigid in his seat for a moment before he realized that the medic was teasing him. Turning around, he shot her a half-hearted glare. "What are you doing back there anyway? Is Hokage-sama going to send Naruto out again any time soon?"

Shizune hid her wince but continued gathering scrolls. "I'm gathering up all the high-ranked mission scrolls. I think Tsunade-sama may have mis-ranked some. And no, I'm pretty sure she won't send Naruto out on another mission for a couple of days. You should take him out for ramen once they get done with the debriefing."

Iruka chuckled, shaking his head. "I was actually thinking about doing that, but I'm broke until pay-day, since I took Naruto out for ramen before they left."

Looking over her stack of scrolls and making sure she hadn't missed any, Shizune turned her attention to Iruka for a moment before pulling out her wallet and handing him several bills. "Here, you can pay me back later."

Iruka shook his head, cheeks coloring in embarrassment. "I couldn't possibly—"

Shizune snatched his hand up and forced the money into it. "You can and you will. Go have fun with Naruto later, and stop being so modest," she admonished, gathering her scrolls and turning towards the door just in time for Team Kurenai to make their way into the mission room. "Team Kurenai, Tsunade-sama is waiting for you in her office," Shizune told them, stepping around Iruka's desk and nearly stepping on Tonton. "Naruto, could you get Tonton for me? My hands are kind of full."

Shrugging, the blond bent over and picked up the pig, turning around to follow Shizune up the stairs to Tsunade's office. "Hinata, are you ok? Your face looks kind of red," the boy pointed out, earning barely suppressed laughter from Kurenai and Shizune, a groan from Iruka, and more blushing from the girl in question who had nearly been caught looking at Naruto's ass. Seeing her shake her head, he grinned. "So what's Tsunade-baachan want with us anyway?"

"Mission debriefing, Naruto," Kurenai pointed out, getting a nod from the blond. "And as amusing as hearing that is, you should show more respect for Tsunade-sama. After all, she is—"

"One of the Densetsu no Sannin, Legendary Medic, blah blah blah," Naruto summarized, rolling his eyes. "She's still 'obaa-chan' to me."

Kurenai would have argued the point, but decided it was a wasted effort when their Hokage acted just as childish as the boy in front of her. The older woman proved her point by nailing Naruto in the forehead with a thrown stapler as he entered the room. "What was that, you brat?" she growled out.

Naruto rubbed at the imprint left on his forehead by the bottom of the stapler before picking it up and returning fire, dropping Tonton in the process. "I said you're an old hag, you old hag!"

When Tsunade picked up the stapler and flung it back at the boy, Shizune intercepted it before it could hit its mark, having set her scrolls down on the new desk. "You two can play later," she admonished, putting the stapler back on the desk and moving to stand behind Tsunade.

"So, tell me about your mission," Tsunade ordered, taking a seat and motioning for the others to sit as well. Over the next hour and a half, the genin and Kurenai took turns reporting the events of their mission, Tsunade stopping them occasionally to ask questions. "I see. So this one is going to be marked as a failure then?"

Naruto pouted, but nodded. "It's not my fault," he grumbled, getting a few snickers out of Kiba.

"Well, if that's all you have to report," she started, getting nods from Team Kurenai and Naruto, "then you're dismissed. You have the rest of the week off. Naruto, Hinata, stay here for a few minutes would you?"

Once Kurenai, Kiba, Akamaru, and Shino had gone, Naruto turned his attention to Tsunade. "So, what's up baachan?"

Tsunade grit her teeth in annoyance but didn't rise to the bait. "Firstly... Naruto, how would you feel about leaving the village on an extended training mission?"

Giving it a moment of thought, Naruto shrugged. "I dunno. Sounds ok, I guess. I like traveling. Who am I going with? Ero-sennin?"

Tsunade snickered. "Perhaps. I hate to send you out again so soon, but some things have come up. Go home and start packing. Has Jiraiya taught you how to make storage scrolls yet?"

Naruto shook his head. "Nope. He's mostly worked on taijutsu, rasengan, and using..." He cut off, shooting a glance at Hinata from the corner of his eye.

"I see," Tsunade nodded. Shizune leaned in from behind her and whispered something in her ear and Tsunade nodded again before pulling out a small booklet from one of her drawers and scribbling something onto it. Tearing the page off, she handed it to the boy. "Here, go down stairs and give this to Iruka. Tell him I said he's off for the rest of the day and to close the mission office, then the two of you can go buy a few storage scrolls and you can get to packing. You will meet tomorrow morning at the north gate, five A.M.."

"Five in the morning?! Are you crazy?" Naruto shouted, pointing at the woman accusingly. "You must be going senile if you think I'm getting up that early."

"You'll get up early and you'll like it, brat!" Tsunade growled back. "Now, get," she yelled, shooing him from her office and frowning when he stuck his tongue out at her.

Once Naruto was gone, Hinata turned her attention back to the rapidly calming Hokage. "A.. ano..."

"Right, Hinata, on to business," Tsunade started, motioning for Shizune to close the doors to her office. Once she was sure they were closed, Tsunade smiled at the meek girl, hoping to reassure her. "So tell me Hinata-chan, what are your intentions towards my little Naruto-kun?" Hearing Shizune cough loudly behind her, Tsunade rolled her eyes. "Sorry, our Naruto-kun."

"A.. I— um," Hinata spluttered, face going from pink to maroon and looking to hit purple soon.

"We're just teasing you, Hinata-san. Don't worry, your secret is safe with us," Shizune giggled, hoping to keep the young woman from passing out.

Tsunade grinned at the younger girl before turning serious. "As you know, Naruto has unofficially been apprenticed to Jiraiya. With the Uchiha betraying us to go learn under my other team-mate, that leaves one Sannin without an apprentice from your generation."

Hinata nodded her understanding. "K-kurenai-sensei said that you were looking at Haruno-san for that position as she has good chakra control and is the only member of Team 7 not apprenticed to one of the Sannin," she stated quietly, trying not to get her hopes up that their Hokage would possibly want to apprentice someone as useless as her.

Tsunade nodded in agreement. "I was. Haruno has near-perfect chakra control, or so her sensei says. However, some things have come up recently and she may not be the best choice for the position. You, on the other hand, have excellent chakra control, your sensei tells me you've shown some interest in medicine, and you possess the Byakugan."

"M-me?"

"Yes, I think you would be the best for the job. However, there are a few things you must be made aware of first. Also, I have a condition—well, a couple actually—that you must accept before I would take you on as my apprentice." Hinata nodded, too afraid to open her mouth and ruin this chance, and Tsunade continued. "My first condition: you're going to have to become more self-confident. Speak up for yourself, stop looking down all the time, stop trying to hide yourself, and for gods' sake stop stuttering. I know it's going to be hard to go against ingrained actions learned over a life-time, so I'm not going to expect drastic changes immediately. Just promise me you'll try."

"I-i..." Hinata cut herself off, biting her bottom lip and taking a deep breath. "I promise, I will do my best."

Smiling, Tsunade continued. "Good. It's a start, at least. As for my other conditions... well, I'll let you know in time. Before you accept though, there is something I should ask. Shizune tells me that you would be fairly open to the idea, but I have my doubts," Tsunade paused, considering the girl a moment before plunging on. "The village council, or some representative members of it anyway, came to me today and gave me an ultimatum. I must either remove Naruto from the ninja corps and banish him from Konoha, or they will have him executed. I've been given three days to make my decision."

"T-they can't! Control of Konoha's shinobi force rests with the Hokage, by design, so that the council can not order, dismiss, reprimand, or execute ninja under the control of the Hokage. Iruka taught us this in our last year studying under him. They could not do so without either your permission or..."

"Or if they go over my head directly to the Fire Lord," Tsunade finished, nodding. Seeing the dawning realization and horror on Hinata's face, Tsunade sighed. "You know, I can count on one hand the number of people I actually love and would do nearly anything for who are still alive today. That brat is the one who convinced me to come back to this stupid village in the first place. If he were gone, well, there wouldn't be much of a point in me staying would there?"

Hinata shook her head, agreeing whole-heartedly. "Isn't there something we can do? Perhaps my father..."

Tsunade snickered. "Not likely. Hiashi's had a stick up his ass for a few years now and I don't think he's going to forgive Naruto for knocking it loose during the chuunin exam any time soon. So, my question to you is, how would you feel about leaving Konoha for a while?"

"With Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked immediately. Seeing Tsunade nod, Hinata almost agreed on the spot but held herself back from making a decision right then. On the one hand, she would be leaving behind all of her friends, her family, and possibly be betraying her village. On the other hand, she would be traveling with Naruto-kun. ...Oh, who was she kidding? Her only friends were Kurenai-sensei and her teammates, most of her family hated her, and any place that would be willing to execute someone as nice as Naruto-kun for no reason whatsoever was no place she wanted to stay. That thought brought the girl up short.

"Ano... why are they trying to hard to get rid of Naruto-kun?" she asked, thinking back to all the times she'd been the blond's own stalker-fangirl and the looks that the majority of the village had given him. None of it made any sense. Sure, the boy was loud and used to pull pranks full time, but he'd only started doing that when he joined the academy, and he had been alone and hated long before then.

Tsunade turned to look at Shizune, who bit her lip and nodded. Sighing, the older woman turned back around and focused her attention on Hinata. "You love him, don't you." It was not a question. Seeing the girl's blush and hesitant nod, Tsunade nodded. "What I'm about to tell you is an S-class secret... but doesn't really mean anything since no one bothers to enforce the spirit of Sandaime's Law," at the girl's confused look, she continued. In a moment of insight, she reached inside her desk and pulled out a spare scroll. "What do you know about seals? Specifically, storage seals."

Hinata shrugged at the change in topic. "They use the chakra of the one who performs the sealing to store an object inside of another object."

Pulling out a brush and some ink, Tsunade quickly scribed a small storage seal onto the blank scroll, then pulled out a kunai. "I was too lazy to do this for Naruto, but then again, I wanted him out of the office. Now, this is now a storage scroll, right?" Seeing Hinata nod, she held up the kunai. "And you agree that this is just a kunai?" Another nod, and the blond sealed the kunai into the scroll, which the then held up. "And this?"

"A storage scroll with a kunai sealed into it," the younger girl answered, not seeing the point to this demonstration.

"You're sure it's not a kunai?" Tsunade asked, again getting a nod. "So it's pretty damn simple to tell the difference, right?" Another nod. "Finally, someone in this village with some common-fucking-sense."

"I don't see how this relates to Naruto-kun," Hinata pointed out quietly, not wanting to upset the woman in what appeared to be a moment of triumph for her.

Shizune answered this time, after taking a breath to steady herself. "You know Naruto's birthday is the 10th of October, right?" Seeing the girl's blush and nod, she continued. "Almost fourteen years ago now, isn't it? What else happened that night?"

Hinata already knew the answer and had paled the moment Shizune mentioned how many years it had been. Things that, moments ago had made no sense, she now understood. "Yondaime didn't kill the Kyuubi?" she asked, getting a nod from both older women.

Tsunade snorted. "It was a creature composed almost entirely of chakra—well, demonic chakra, or youki in this case—with no real physical body to speak of. How the hell do you kill something like that? The short answer: you don't. It was already dead, I suppose. A self-sustaining mass of fury-driven youki, whose tails could topple mountains and cause tsunamis... It really was a monster."

"Yondaime gave his life to save us, but at the price of his own. The jutsu he used was sort of an equivalent-exchange jutsu: a life for a life," Shizune explained. "More than that really. It was a human sacrifice to trap a demon. And with a demon like Kyuubi, there's no way you could just seal it into an inanimate object. It would break free in no time. As for an animal... well, it would just possess whatever animal he put it in and eventually build itself a new body, and go on about its business. And if it ever died, it would be released into its original form."

"The only thing with the will-power strong enough to suppress the demon behind a seal would be a human, and the only human capable of handling that much raw chakra without burning out would have to be a child, since an adult's chakra pathways are mostly set in their ways and resistant to change. Any adult Yondaime put it in would have simply burned up from the inside out in time and we'd be back where we started. But a child... A child could adapt, if given a chance to do so over time." Tsunade looked at Hinata to judge the girl's reaction.

After taking a moment to take the information in, Hinata's eyes narrowed. "So Naruto-kun is the container for the Kyuubi?" Tsunade and Shizune nodded. "And the people of Konoha believe him to be the Kyuubi re-incarnate, not just the beast's jailer?" Two more nods. "And instead of treating him like the hero he is, or at least fearing him as the demon they believe him to be, they want to have him killed?" More nods. "...I'll go pack my things."

Tsunade laughed and waved the girl to sit back down. "Well, it's nice to know you're with us, apprentice."

Hinata blushed again, her index fingers poking together. "T-thank you.," she mumbled, then blinked. "'Us?'"

Tsunade nodded. "Like I said, if Naruto isn't here there really isn't a point in me staying."

"And as First Apprentice, I'm sort of responsible for Tsunade-sama. I go where she goes," Shizune added, gaining a grumbled 'I'm not a child,' from Tsunade.

Smiling, Hinata nodded her understanding. "When do we leave?"

"Early tomorrow morning. I want to be out of here and on the road before they realize what's going on. Since the majority of our high-ranking ninja are out on missions, we should be able to slip out without too many problems. It will take at least a week for anyone capable of hunting us down to get back into town and for them to assemble a team," Tsunade stated. "I don't think I need to tell you this, but you can't mention this to anyone. Go home, store everything you want to bring in scrolls, and meet us at the north gate by five tomorrow morning. We're going to be traveling light and fast, so the less weight you have to carry the better." At Hinata's nod, Tsunade waved her towards the door. "Dismissed."

Once Hinata had left the room, Tsunade turned to Shizune. "So, how many missions did you get?"

"Eleven, Tsunade-shishou, five A-ranked and six B-ranked. All of them are well outside of Konoha and none are due to be completed for at least a month."

Nodding, Tsunade eyed the scrolls before spotting something else on her desk. Reaching over, she picked up the Hokage's official seal and smirked at Shizune. "You know, this is the first time since I took this job that I've actually looked forward to paperwork," she said, putting the seal down and picking up several sheets of paper and a pen and began to scrawl out orders. Tsunade's first few orders were short and to the point, and each was stamped as soon as she finished it.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby appoint Hyuuga Hinata as my second apprentice. Effective Immediately.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby promote Uzumaki Naruto and Hyuuga Hinata to the rank of Chuunin on my authority. Effective Immediately.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby pardon Uzumaki Naruto, Hyuuga Hinata, Shizune, and myself of all crimes against Konohagakure no Sato and Hi no Kuni. Also, I do hereby release the above from any and all obligations to Konohagakure no Sato and Hi no Kuni past, present, or future. Also, I do hereby release the above from the Shinobi ranks of Konohagakure no Sato freely, with all their current ranks and titles, but offer them the chance to rejoin the ranks at a later date upon the approval of the Hokage. Effective Immediately.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby name as my successor to the position of Hokage in the event of my demise or retirement, Jiraiya of the Sannin.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby ban the use of seals or jutsu meant to control or punish individuals from being placed upon any willing or unwilling member of this village. Any and all of such seals and jutsu must be registered with the office of the Hokage, complete with a method for removal. Any individual or group who is found to be using such seals or jutsu or has used such seals or jutsu in the past without a method of removal is to be executed publicly, regardless of rank, social status, or standing within the village, as a warning to those who wish to use such methods. Any person subjected to such seal or jutsu, should it be unable to be removed, shall be granted land and monetary compensation on the order of one million ryo for every year they have been subjected to the seal or jutsu in question, the money for which will be taken from the accused's accounts or lands.

Tsunade smirked, stamping the latest of her decrees. By that time, it was approaching dark and most of the staff in the tower had gone home for the night. "Shizune, how much money does Konoha have in the treasury at the moment?"

Digging through a file cabinet, Shizune came up with a monthly income sheet for the village. "Currently, we have... nine-hundred seventy-six million, four-hundred eighty-one thousand, and eleven ryo. That's after taking into account recent mission payments to the village, shinobi wages, and general expenses of the administration."

Rubbing her hands together, Tsunade did some mental math. "Shizune, make up the paperwork to release five-hundred million ryo to the Hokage. List the expense under black ops or something if you have to, then go collect the money from the treasury while they're still open for the night."

"Hai, Tsunade-shishou," Shizune giggled, going about her assigned task.

Standing from her chair, Tsunade strode from the office towards the Hokage's private library. She nodded to the two chuunin guards at the door and one of them opened it for her. Closing the door behind her, she looked around the room and grinned, immediately spotting her first target of choice: the Forbidden Scroll of Seals. Over an hour later, she made her way out of the library and back to her office, a single scroll in her possession—the storage stroll she'd hastily made for her demonstration with Hinata. One last order made its way onto the pile with the others, signed and stamped by her own hand.

I, Senju Tsunade, Godaime Hokage, do hereby release into my custody the entire contents of the Hokage's personal library, to be returned at my discretion.

The next morning found our favorite orange-clad blond yawning in front of the north gate as the sky began to lighten in the east. Closing his eyes for a moment, the boy opened them again when he felt someone approaching his position. Looking up, he spotted Hyuuga Hinata coming quickly up the road. The girl stopped near him, shooting him a quick smile before blushing and looking down, her fingers pressing together. Remembering her promise to Tsunade the evening before, she steeled herself and spoke. "Good morning Naruto-kun," she greeted quietly, amazed at the lack of a stutter in her own voice.

"Eh, morning Hinata-chan," he returned her greeting around a yawn, missing her worsening blush as his eyes closed to accommodate the yawn. "What are you doing out this early?"

Hinata bit her lower lip softly, unsure of whether or not to tell Naruto the truth. Finally, she compromised, and settled on telling him the truth... just not the whole truth. "I'm going to be leaving the village with my sensei," she answered simply.

"Oh? Where's Kurenai-sensei taking you? And where are Kiba and Shino?" The boy asked, then scrunched up his face in concentration. "Wait a minute. Didn't Tsunade-baachan give your team the rest of the week off?"

"Hai," she answered, nodding. "Team 8 is not leaving, just sensei and I, her other apprentice, and another member of our team."

"Sounds fun. So, where are you going?"

Hinata frowned, thinking it over. "I.. don't know."

"How about where ever the wind takes us?" called a voice from up the road.

Looking away from Hinata, Naruto spotted Tsunade and Shizune—who was carrying her pet pig—coming up the road. "Oi! I thought you said I'd be traveling with Ero-sannin."

Bringing a finger to her lip, Tsunade appeared to think on the question for a moment. In reality, she was just drawing things out to further annoy the younger blond. "Hmm... Nope, can't say I recall saying that. In fact, I'm pretty sure I just asked if you wanted to leave on a training mission."

Shizune nodded. "She's right Naruto-kun. You need to pay more attention to these kinds of things. It could get you into trouble in the future if you don't listen more carefully to the things people are trying to tell you."

Naruto blinked and turned to Hinata. "Wait, so then you're going with them?" he asked, getting a nod. "And I'm going with you?" he asked towards Tsunade, getting another nod. Naruto nodded, giving the matter a moment of deep thought before giving the reply he thought would most irritate the older blond. "...Troublesome."

"Watch it, brat!" Tsunade growled, grinding her fist into the top of his head. "So, are we all packed?" she asked, receiving nods all around. "No one knows you're going?" More nods. "Did you turn the burners on your stove off Naruto?"

"Shit! I knew I forgot something," the blond grumbled, turning back towards the apartment, only to be stopped by Tsunade. Turning to look at her, he saw the smirk adorning her face and couldn't help the shudder that crept up his spine.

"Let it burn."

"Tsunade-sama," Shizune reprimanded her sensei, but there was no real force in her words.

"Ok then. Let's go, Team Hokage!" Tsunade cheered, the official Hokage hat flopping against her back as she threw her fist into the air, pointing north.