I do not now, nor have I ever owned Naruto.

A/N: Welcome to Chapter 1 of my attempt at Perfect Lionheart's "The Missing Hokage" challenge. When I saw that there was a challenge issued, I tried to resist. I tried to fight the temptation to engage in battle. But alas, in the end, I was pulled in, and now my mighty electronic pen is drawn, ready to take the challenge set forth by PL...

*Puts on army helmet, draws claymore, and gets bagpipes ready*

I love the smell of fanfic in the morning!

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Chocolate brown eyes took in the people assembled around the table, the head of their owner resting on a fist which was propped on the arm of a chair. They were the 'Council of Konoha', and they consisted of clan heads and important civilians within Konoha. Alongside them were Sandaime's former teammates Homura and Koharu, as well as Danzou, a skilled diplomat, crippled war hawk, and most importantly, irritating thorn in the side of the Hokage and Konoha's beliefs. Of course any gathering of the useless would be considered incomplete without these three, the 'Village Elders', or as Tsunade called them, the 'Village Ingrown Toenails'.

'Why in the Hell did you ever create the Council of Konoha grandpa?' Tsunade thought, then sighed softly as she remembered that it had been need to ensure that the fledgling village would survive its founding. It had been a necessary evil when it had been made, because all the work that went into creating the village required so much of Hashirama's attention that he needed as much help as he could get. And being the kind of man he was, he allowed the clans and civilians to make it up, so that a wider array of problems were taken care of and different sectors had a voice in Konoha's creation.

Unfortunately, by the time the council was no longer necessary and was to be disbanded, they had burrowed deep, creating laws to keep the council together and able to keep as much power as possible. Hashirama did what he could to limit that power, but much like himself, they were shrewd manipulators, skills born from before Konoha was a gleam in the eye of either Uchiha or Senju, and he was forced to give enough to keep them satisfied.

Tobirama, Hiruzen, and Minato were thus forced to deal with increasingly greedy and power-hungry men and women, working to try and undermine the Hokage and gain more power for themselves and their clan. The worst was the old warhawk Danzou, who was like an inoperable tumor of Konoha, always spreading, infecting wherever he could, his disease spreading through the wood of the tree, causing decay and death wherever it touched...

"Tsunade-sama." the voice of Kohaku broke through the woman's thoughts, bored brown eyes turning to the elderly woman as she asked "What is it Kohaku? Have the hens finally stopped clucking about inconsequential nonsense and ended the pointless pissing contests? Can the ninja actually get to work now?"

The civilians scowled at her as several clan heads laughed, with Chouza's deep laugh echoing throughout the meeting room, accompanied by the barking laughter of Tsume. Shikaku and Inoichi merely smiled and chuckled respectively, Shibi's kikaichuu buzzing lightly, sounding pleased by her words. She noted that some of the clan heads, particularly Hiashi, were also scowling, recognizing the dig against him and others.

"Yes... Well, on to business." Homura said, trying to bring the room under some semblance of order after Tsunade's remarks.

"Of course." Tsunade said, straightening up and folding her hands on the table, her appearance more business-like than before. Nodding to the Godaime Hokage, Kohaku picked up a small stack of papers and began going through them. She knew that she had to be careful with how they went about this, since their plan was treading on thin ice with the Hokage.

But not going through with it would bring an angry Uchiha Itachi down upon herself, Danzou, and Homura for the events surrounding the Uchiha Massacre. And Konoha, despite its strength, could not keep him from getting his vengeance upon them. So was in their best interest to appease the man before he comes after them.

Adjusting her reading glasses, she looked at the first piece of paperwork and spoke aloud "Our first order of business deals with the proposal of a man wishing to start a new, shinobi-only book store..."

Due to years of experience, Tsunade managed to keep the appearance of attentiveness as the council went over the business for the day. Most of it was civilian matters or trivial ninja matters, mostly involving personal complaints and grievances, which rested under the council's jurisdiction. Thus, she was able to allow her mind to drift without worry, only having to appear attentive. And this was something she was incredibly skilled at, having been a high-ranking shinobi for years before her self-imposed exile.

And even then, she was able to get plenty of practice while listening to her assistant and apprentice Shizune fret and worry over their financial matters.

As various orders of business were passed around for the council to discuss, the Godaime Hokage's mind drifted to the blonde who had first convinced her to return to the village in the first place: Uzumaki Naruto. Despite intitial distaste for the blonde, he had managed to break through the barrier surrounding her heart, allowing her to finally trust and care for another again.

Looking at him, she saw the indominable spirit and heart of her lover Dan and little brother Nawaki in him, the 'will of fire', if you will. Lately, she had often found herself wondering should either have had lived, would she have nephew or son like him. Smiling internally, she realized that if she'd had a son, he would indeed be like the energetic, ramen-addicted boy she cared for.

Even his nickname for her, 'Baa-chan', was growing on her, and increasingly she was seeing the young shinobi as a grandson, much like Sarutobi-sensei had before her. It seemed that, given a chance, the boy could bring the best out of you and make you love him in spite of yourself.

"... Pardon of Uchiha Sasuke..."

Tsunade was forced from her thoughts at hearing those words, eyes turning to Kohaku as the council erupted. The civilians were cheering for such a thing to happen, while most of the ninja were enraged at the thought of pardoning a traitor.

"Enough!" Tsunade barked, and at once the room went deathly quiet. Tsunade might be considered a gambling lush, but she was still Hokage, and still had the strength to crush skulls like most people crush roaches beneath their shoe. And such strength was respected by civilian and ninja, no matter who wielded it.

"Now, why may I ask are we even considering pardoning a traitor to Konoha, one who planned to run to Orochimaru, the murderer of the Sandaime Hokage, and whose defection caused severe injury to six loyal ninja?" Tsunade asked, and Kohaku new that the emphasis on the word loyal was no accident.

"Well, Hokage-sama, it seems that there were extinuating circumstances involving the curse seal he had recieved from Orochimaru and its effects on him." Kohaku said, treading carefully over the subject.

"Such as?" Tsunade asked, her tone was low and calm, but she was giving off the aura of a predator stalking its unwary pray, crouched and ready to pounce at the opportune moment.

"Well, exams of both seal and child have shown that its effects on his body and mental state are quite pronounced." Kohaku said, and Tsunade raised an eyebrow as she replied "I'd heard that it had been effectively sealed by the boy's Jounin sensei not a couple days after he had recieved it. From my understanding, it takes longer than that for pronounced effects to be had."

"O-of course, Hokage-sama..." Kohaku agreed, and Tsunade nodded as she continued "And that the seal placed by one Hatake Kakashi was based around the willpower of the person the seal was on. Which means that for the seal Orochimaru gave him to have affected the boy at all, much like it did during his battle against genin Uzumaki Naruto at the 'Valley of the End', then he must be weak-willed. Something a shinobi should not be."

"However, his contact with one Uchiha Itachi in Tanzaku Town had negative effects on the mind of the boy, and weakened his will enough for the seal to take advantage." Kohaku said, and Tsunade retorted "But Uchiha Sasuke should not have been in Tanzaku Town in the first place to meet up with his brother, since he had no permission to leave the village at that time. He left of his own free will to locate and confront Uchiha Itachi, an act most would consider 'suicidal' at best. The fact the child got away with but a broken arm and placed under the Tsukiyomi is a miracle."

"Of course, Hokage-sama, that has been taken into account. And while we wish to pardon Uchiha Sasuke, we also want to revoke his rights and privilages as a shinobi, leaving him a civilian. We will also have a tracking seal placed on him to ensure he does not attempt to defect to Orochimaru again." Kohaku said, and Tsunade studied the elderly woman as she asked "Why do you care so much for one genin?"

"Because, Hokage-sama," Danzou took over for Kohaku, and Tsunade's predatory brown eyes turned to him as he explained "The Uchiha's Sharingan is too valuable for us to lose, and having him locked away will cause such a resource to be lost forever."

"I believe that would be no great loss." Hiashi stated, and Danzou turned to the Hyuuga head as he said "You would believe that, Hiashi-sama. The feud between the Hyuuga and the Uchiha clans is well-recorded both before and after the creation of the village. However, just because you believe that, does not make it true."

"I do. All it does is create arrogant and untrustworthy shinobi, who believe their personal wants deserve to be placed above the good of the village. A belief that is not tempered by the civilians, nor unfortunately by the previous Hokage, as his actions at the last Chuunin exam showed." Inoichi said, and Danzou looked toward the blonde man as he asked "How do you mean, Inoichi-sama?"

"I mean that the Uchiha was allowed to be over an hour late, something that must not be tolerated, and most certainly would not have been if it had been Shikamaru-kun, Gaara-san, or especially Uzumaki-san." Inoichi said, and the civilian council let their thoughts be vocally known about the Uzumaki boy, which allowed the 'Village Elders' a temporary smirk at their reaction.

"QUIET!" Tsunade yelled, and looked toward the Elders as she asked "So, you wish for Uchiha Sasuke to be rendered a civilian of Konoha, with a tracking seal placed on him to make sure he doesn't attempt to escape again, so he can reproduce and give us more little Uchihas?"

At seeing their nods, she sighed, and closing her eyes she said "Very well. Despite my best judgement, I shall allow it... Only on the condition that he submits to proper psychological evaluation, then recieves the emotional and psychological help he needed but was denied after the Uchiha Massacre. Also, I want Jiraiya to properly seal that horrid cursed mark, and to seal off all his chakra but that which his body requires to survive so that he will offer less of a threat to others."

They nodded in agreement with this, and Danzou said "Now, about the Kyuubi child..."

The killing intent radiating off the Hokage caused the civilians to begin gasping as they found themselves short of breath and even the shinobi were sweating slightly. Danzou felt an uncomfortable tightness in his chest from it, and a chill ran down his spine, not unlike someone was dancing on his grave, as he heard the female Hokage ask "What about Uzumaki Naruto?"

"According to ANBU reports from the Valley of the End, there was a large amount of the Kyuubi's chakra permeating the area shortly after the battle." Danzou said, a low murmur beginning to sound from the civilians.

"A necessary evil for Uzumaki Naruto to combat the cursed mark wielded by Uchiha Sasuke. It was no accident nor was it a sign of the seal weakening, Danzou. It was a defense mechanism placed there by the Yondaime Hokage in case of emergencies to protect Naruto and ensure his continued existance, as well as ensure the Kyuubi does not escape upon his death." Tsunade retorted, and Danzou asked "How can we be so sure of that?"

"Because the Yondaime wrote that down himself within the scroll bearing the Shiki Fuin, and has been supported by his teacher, Jiraiya. If we cannot trust the work of two of the greatest seal masters to ever exist, then who shall we trust? Homura and Kohaku? Or maybe you and your Root?" Tsunade asked, and Danzou scowled as he said "You know that Root was disbanded by the foolish Sandaime Hokage years..."

"Bullshit Danzou. Noone honestly believes that, especially not the Jounin who see 'ANBU' in Konoha bearing the Ni kanji upon their mask." Tsunade replied, and Danzou's scowl deepened as he said "We are not here to discuss a defunct organization Tsunade-sama. We are here to discuss Uzumaki Naruto and the danger he presents to Konoha."

"Which we both know is none, Danzou. As stated before, the seal placed on Naruto was a collaboration of both Jiraiya and Namikaze Minato, two of the greatest seal masters to ever exist. To doubt the seal is to doubt them, something I refuse to allow happen. Minato's genius is touted in the streets by shinobi and civilian alike, and that seal is a work of that genius." Tsunade replied, and Danzou said "But it is 12 years old. Surely degeneration can happen to even the greatest seals..."

"That is why Jiraiya, Minato's teacher and a seal master of his calibre, inspects it every so often to ensure that degeneration has not happened. If such a thing has happened, then Jiraiya can easily repair it before it becomes dangerous to Konoha. And Uzumaki Naruto is one of the most loyal shinobi to ever live, so we do not need to worry about him being a threat to us either." Tsunade countered, and Danzou's jaw clenched as that door was shut before he could enter it.

"How can we be so assured of his loyalty, Tsunade-sama?" one of the civilians asked, and Tsunade said "Because he has never once shown any sign of betraying Konoha, unlike Uchiha Sasuke. He has protected us from danger time and again, even doing so since birth by holding back the Kyuubi. He wishes to have acknowledgement from the people of Konoha, to earn their respect. If he were not loyal to our village and its people, then he would not have such hopes. Only the Inuzuka clan can rival his loyalty to our village."

"But..."

"Enough!" Tsunade growled, adding "We are not here to discuss Uzumaki Naruto, a loyal Konoha shinobi who, along with the rest of a team put together by Shikamaru and aided by the children of the late Kazekage, went above and beyond the call of duty and accomplished a mission that would have given Jounin trouble."

"I am merely concerned with the safety of Konoha and its people, as is the Daimyo." Danzou calmly said, and Tsunade's eyes narrowed dangerously as she asked "And why exactly are you bringing him up?"

"Merely because the day after the Uchiha incident, I sent the Daimyo the reports gathered by ANBU and asked for his input. He says that he agrees with Kohaku, Homura, and myself on the subject of genin Uzumaki Naruto. I just hoped that we could get you to see the light concerning the jinchuuriki, but unfortunately it seems your personal feelings for the child are clouding your judgement..."

"HOW DARE YOU!?"

All eyes suddenly turned to the dark haired Inuzuka matriarch, even a stunned Tsunade, who had risen to her feet and looked about moments from leaping at the 'Village Elders' and ripping their throats out with her teeth.

"What do you mean, Inuzuka-san?" Danzou asked, and Tsume felt her hackles rise as she growled "I mean that you have gone behind the back of our leader and undermined her authority!"

"For the good of the village only, Inuzuka-san." Danzou replied, but this time Shikaku spoke up and said "Bullshit. From what I've seen and heard from my son, Uzumaki Naruto is not a danger to our village nor its people. He has been nothing but loyal to both in a situation that most would have long since betrayed up, if the reports and rumors I've heard."

"Lo-loyal, with all those pranks he's pulled!?" a civilian asked, and Shibi answered "Observation by both myself and my clan seem to indicate that those pranks were merely a cry for attention in an enviroment where he was all but denied acknowledgement of any form. For a child in their most formulative stage of life, such acts are normally seen as cruel to the point of emotional abuse, but it seems they were 'overlooked' in his case. The fact he only pulled harmless jokes upon the people who denied him his very right to exist speaks highly of his mental and emotional fortitude."

"That is but your sympathetic opinion, Aburame-san." Kohaku said, then continued "However, it seems that the Daimyo isn't quite willing to take complete control from the Hokage and Council. He has agreed to endorse whatever decision the Council reaches. But seeing as we are not completely heartless, we won't ask for execution."

"How very generous of you." Tsunade growled, and Homura asked "All those in favor of the banishment of genin Uzumaki Naruto from the ranks of Konohagakure?"

Tsunade felt her heart drop and her skin pale as the entire civilian half of the council, the 'Village Elders', Hiashi, and two of the minor clans raised their hands. That right there sealed the innocent blonde's fate.

"And all those against?"

Tsunade raised her hand, as did Shibi, Shikaku, Inoichi, Tsume, Chouza, and the remaining minor clan.

Forcing herself to hide her pleased smile, Kohaku pushed herself onto her feet and said "By a vote of 13 to 7, the council, with the full backing of the Daimyo of Hi no Kuni, do hearby banish genin Uzumaki Naruto. He is to be outside the walls of Konohagakure no Sato within the next 72 hours, or he will be considered a threat to the village and executed as one."

"With this vote, the business of the Council is finished for the day, and are excused." Danzou said as he rose himself. The civilian side of the council, along with Hiashi and the two minor clans, all rose as one, a feeling of pride swelling in their chests from ridding the village of Konohagakure of the 'Kyuubi child'. As they marched out, Kohaku, Homura, and Danzou sent the Godaime Hokage a smug look that clearly sent the message 'We run things around here now' before exiting themselves.

"I am sorry for this, Hokage-sama. Uzumaki Naruto was a loyal nin of Konoha, and it is a shame to lose one so loyal for a traitor." Shibi said as he rose to his feet. Similar sentiments were given by the Ino-Shika-Cho trio and the minor clan head before they exited, leaving Tsunade and Tsume alone.

Looking to the despondant Tsunade, Tsume sighed as she said "I'm sorry for this, Hokage-sama. I must say that I've grown rather fond of the blonde pup, and the tale of how he defeated Kiba in the prelims of the Chuunin exam caused me to damn near wet myself with laughter."

Looking to the table, Tsume asked "What are you going to do about him?" After several moments of silence from their leader, Tsume turned to ask what was wrong, but stopped as she saw the look on the blonde Hokage's face. It was similar to the one the Sandaime used to get when he was planning to be devious, especially when he knew it would twist the panties of people who thought they'd gotten one over on him.

A shiver shot up the Inuzuka head's spine, and she had a feeling that whatever was about to happen would shake the village to the core.

"Tsume..."

"Yes Hokage-sama?"

"Are you pondering what I'm pondering."

Tsume slowly matched the woman's smile, and said "I believe so, Hokage-sama. And if I indeed am, then all I can say is... I want in."

Looking at the Inuzuka head, Tsunade's smile grew as she said "Good, Tsume-chan. Now, all we need is Shizune, and our plan can begin."

Once again the shiver shot up her spine, and somehow Tsume knew that this was going to be something that will be remembered for generations to come.