Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Author's Note: Partly inspired by Perfect Lionheart's missing hokage challenge, with some odd bits of fandom cliche thrown in for good measure. Continuity sticklers will probably notice that I've fudged a few details surrounding Tsunade's return to the village and her knowledge of previous events in the interests of a better story, so just consider this ever-so-slightly AU.
Edited 07-18-09: Just fixed a few typos and spelling errors. No changes to the actual story.
Danzo seldom showed emotion, but even the most seasoned ninja have their limits. This midnight journey through the most secure wing of the ANBU detention center should never have been necessary. To the elite ninja who guarded the facility his narrowed eyes and clenched jaw were as good as a shouted tirade, and even the irrepressible Anko held her silence as she unlocked the inner gate and passed him through.
Damn that idiot boy! He fumed. And damn Kakashi for letting it come to this! What kind of jounin can't foresee his own student betraying the village in such a crude manner? What was Sarutobi thinking, putting that incompetent in charge of such a critical team?
But the former Hokage was three weeks dead, and he'd had no chance to confide in his successor. No one would ever know.
Sasuke was chained to the wall of his cell with massive bands of steel, surrounded by chakra suppression seals to prevent the use of techniques. The seals glowed with a soft blue light, a testament to the amount of power they were suppressing. The genin's eyes followed the old man coldly as he closed the door, and moved to take the seat in the center of the room. Danzo regarded him in silence for a long moment.
"Well, boy, you've truly made a mess of things now." He finally growled. "What were you thinking, going over to that madman Orochimaru?"
"I'll never become strong enough to kill my brother with Kakashi holding me back." Sasuke replied coldly.
"So instead you ally with a man who intends to possess you at the first opportunity? Idiot boy, if you wanted harsher training you could have asked for it. Do you think you're the only one who wants to see Itachi dealt with?"
"I did." Sasuke muttered.
Danzo paused, and his jaw clenched again. "I see. Well, with the old fool gone those of us who understand what it means to be a ninja village are finally in charge. I've spoken with the clan elders who matter, and we've determined that the Sharingan is sufficiently important to the future of this village to warrant giving you another chance. But your days of being a loose cannon are over."
"In the morning Hiashi is going to place the Caged Bird seal on you. The Hokage will conceal it with her illusion seal, and you will speak of it to no one. You will then resume active duty. We will manufacture a cover story to explain away your involvement with those Sound ninja, and you will never speak of the matter again. If the Hokage or council ever receive a report on you that even hints at disloyalty we will use the seal to execute you immediately."
"After being sealed you will report to the Uchiha clan compound for special training. Kakashi will be assigned full-time duty as your personal tutor, with orders to teach you everything he knows within the next six months. If your performance is satisfactory at that time you will be given a new team and placed in ANBU's reactivated jutsu theft section, where you will spent your time copying the techniques of the most powerful foreign ninja you can locate. The council will consider the possibility of an assassination mission against Itachi at such time as you demonstrate that it is likely to succeed."
"However, immediate steps must be taken to guard against the risk of the Sharingan being permanently lost to Konoha. The council has therefore passed a special resolution for the preservation of endangered bloodlines, which suspends all customary limitations on the selection of spouses and requires the Hokage to assign kunoichi to this duty. You will select at least three females of childbearing age to assist you in reviving your clan, and arrangements will be made immediately. If there is an excessive delay before they begin providing heirs, be aware that the council will take whatever steps may be required to expedite the process."
"Now, have I made myself clear?"
The prospect of being a virtual slave infuriated Sasuke, but the carrot the council offered was a big one. And since the alternative was probably a few months as an unwilling sperm donor followed by an execution…
Tsunade turned away from her darkened window and knocked back another swig of sake with the ease of long practice. Six hours in surgery, trying to save a young boy who should have been dead already. Who would have been dead, if not for the most amazing case of regeneration she'd ever seen. There'd been so much blood. She shuddered. She'd only been back for a week, and already she'd nearly buried the boy who'd convinced her to return.
Only the quiet shuffle of paper betrayed Shizune's presence in the office. Once her assistant's habits had irritated Tsunade to no end, but she'd long since come to understand. Where Tsunade drank to forget, Shizune buried herself in responsibility.
Suddenly the shuffling stopped. "Um, Tsunade? You didn't read this law before you signed it, did you?"
"So what?" The slug Sannin grumbled. "Not like I know what's going on in this town. Can't the council handle running the place long enough for me to figure out what all our ninja are doing?" Then she noticed Shizune's expression.
Wordlessly, her assistant placed the document on the desk in front of her.
"Ok, yeah, the clan restoration thing. So? Personally I'd lock the little bastard up and go with artificial insemination, but what the hell. Half the kunoichi in the village are obsessed with him, what do I care if they get their wish?"
"Well, ok. Wives, mistresses, yeah whatever. Hokage can designate more clans, requirements to qualify, provisions to revoke, blah blah blah. Still not seeing the….WHAT?!?" Tsunade nearly dropped her sake bottle in shock. Then she stopped to take another swig before reading on.
"An endangered bloodline male can claim up to a dozen unmarried females between the age of 12 and 40 as a wives or mistresses? Overrides all other legal restrictions and commitments? Kunoichi considered on a permanent B-rank mission assignment, with the bloodline carrier as their mission commander? Wait, the girl's clan head can object but she can't? Shizune, this is…is…"
"A license to create a harem of virtual slaves, with a few loopholes to let the more powerful clan heads protect their own daughters if they care to. I wish we'd known about this in time to stop it."
"Damn it! I knew I shouldn't have come back here! I suck at this political bullshit. I…damn it, I've screwed things up again. What am I going to do, Shizune?"
"It's not the end of the world, Tsunade. From what I hear Sasuke is pretty popular, so I doubt he'll have any trouble finding enough volunteers. Just don't declare any other clans endangered, and we'll find an excuse to repeal it in a year or two when the clan elders have gotten what they wanted."
"You wanted to see me, father?"
Hiashi Hyuuga was taking a late breakfast after sealing the Uchiha boy, but the interruption was expected. He looked up to regard his oldest daughter with a certain cold satisfaction. She was weak but obedient, which made her the perfect instrument to carry out his latest plan.
"Hinata, the clan has need of you. The council has voted to make what use we can of the Uchiha boy, and it falls to you to look after our interests in this matter."
"Very well, father. What must I do?" A more perceptive daughter would have understood his intentions at once, but Hinata had never been that quick. A pity, but then there was a reason he'd selected her younger sister to succeed him as clan head.
"In three days you will marry Sasuke Uchiha. You will take steps to ensure you bear his child within a year, and a second as soon after that as possible. I expect several other clans will make similar arrangements, so you must ensure that you are not pushed aside by their representatives."
She paled. "Father, I… I had been told that the Byakugaan and the Sharingan do not mix."
"A solution for that difficulty was found some years ago. This afternoon our seal masters and I will remove your Seven Virtues Chastity Seal, and replace it with an array that should ensure the viability of your offspring. It may interest you to know that the array is quite delicate, and its presence will make it impossible for you to receive the Caged Bird seal."
Hiashi has expected some relief at this news, but apparently the prospect of imminent marriage still dominated the girl's attention. Well, fair enough. She'd have time to appreciate his generosity later.
"Hinata." He waited patiently until she looked up again before going on. "You are still a Hyuga, no matter what this new law may say. The Uchiha boy will die facing his brother in a year or two, and when that happens the Uchiha clan will be no more. You will return to the clan as the mother of a new bloodline, the most powerful in Konoha. Let nothing stand in the way of this."
"Yes, father." Her eyes were bright with unshed tears, yet another sign of her weakness. No true Hyuuga would let their emotions show in such a disgraceful manner. Was the Uchiha really that repulsive to her?
Well, he was an Uchiha, and they were an unsavory lot at best. But in that case it might be best not to rely too heavily on her acting abilities.
"Perhaps I should add a Hidden Surrender seal to your array." He offered.
She choked. "Sir, if the clan requires this of me I have no choice but to obey. But if you don't want that man to know how much I want to kill him, you'd better make it Wife's Duty guiding Lotus in the Monsoon."
After that shocking pronouncement she turned to go without bothering to ask for permission, an almost inexcusable display of rudeness. What could possibly prompt his normally obedient daughter to act in such an uncivilized manner?
Oh, of course.
"Who is he?"
She stopped in the doorway, her head bowed. "Naruto."
For just a moment his anger was so strong it nearly overcame his self-control. That crude, posturing ape laying hands on a Hyuuga? "Unacceptable!"
"I know." She answered, and slipped quietly out the door.
Well. Perhaps her suggestion on the seals had merit.
Tsunade was never a morning person, and her hangover didn't help. She'd dragged herself into the office only an hour before noon, intending to brood in solitude for a bit. But when the two most powerful men in the village request an immediate appointment even a Hokage is wise to comply.
"Ok Danzo, Hiashi, what's this about?"
The men exchanged glances, and Danzo leaned forward to speak. "We've received several urgent intelligence reports from the court in the last two days, including one from a source in the Fire Lord's privy council. I'm afraid the Fire Lord has discovered that Konoha has a jinchuuriki, and he hasn't taken the news well."
Tsunade blinked. "We do? Damn, I've got to find time to finish going through Sarutobi's files. Ok, who is it and what's the problem?"
"The old Hokage passed a law forbidding anyone to mention the jinchuuriki's identity, and I'm afraid it's still in force." Danzo answered. "But the problem should be apparent. Jinchuuriki are extremely unstable, prone to going berserk and wreaking large-scale havoc for reasons no one can predict."
"Indeed." Hiashi went on. "To date the Fourth Hokage's seal work has proved more reliable than that of the other villages, but considering the bijuu in question the consequences of even a partial seal failure would be catastrophic."
"Wait, which bijuu is it?" Tsunade asked. "I don't remember Minato going up against anything but…the Kyuubi. Dear god. He sealed it?"
Danzo nodded gravely. "You appreciate the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately we now have a tiger by the tail. The boy has already been observed calling on its power, and the chances of even the Fourth's seal holding forever seem remote. The seal is designed to kill the Kyuubi if the container dies, but obviously that has never been tested. If it doesn't work there is likely no one in Fire Country who could stop the beast again. We can probably persuade the Fire Lord that an execution is too risky, but he is adamant that the container of the nine-tails not be allowed to become a danger to the realm. Most likely the best we can hope for is exile."
"No." Hiashi interjected. "I still say permanent exile is too risky. Sooner or later our enemies will discover what he is, or he'll decide to seek revenge and make a pact with the beast. I say the best course is to team him up with some of our other problematic ninja and set them on Orochimaru's trail. Eventually one group will kill the other, and regardless of who wins it will mean fewer problems for us."
"Alright gentlemen, it's obvious you both know exactly who we're talking about. I'm not about to make this decision in the dark, so hang on a minute." She pulled a sheet of paper out of her desk and scribbled a few lines, and stamped it with the Hokage's seal. "Here. You're both officially authorized to reveal the jinchuuriki's identity to the current Hokage. So who is it?"
"Naruto." Danzo answered quietly.
Tsunade stared at them, and a vein began to throb at her temple.
"Get out." She growled.
"Hokage, the Fire Lord…" Hiashi began.
She slammed a fist down on her desk so hard the ancient wood cracked. "The Fire Lord can kiss my ass! Out! Goddamn conniving bastards!"
Tsunade sagged over her desk. "Bastards. What's happened to this place? This isn't the Konoha I left."
Shizune hesitantly poked her head through the door. "Tsunade?"
"Shizune, go get me all of our intel reports from the Fire Lord's court for the last two weeks. Then cancel my appointments for the afternoon, and come join me. We've got a problem to solve."
Three hours later Tsunade's mood was even worse. It was obvious enough that someone was leaking information about the Kyuubi container to the Fire Lord, and whoever it was had taken pains to paint him in the worst light possible. The first official request for action would arrive within a day or two, and after that it would be difficult to put things off for long.
"It's a setup." She fumed to Shizune as the pair made their way through the hospital. "They think they can pressure me into letting them exile the kid, after all he's gone through for them. I'm not going to stand for this."
"I'm not sure what we can do about it." Her companion fretted. "You can't just refuse the Fire Lord without starting a civil war, and Naruto won't even be on his feet for weeks-"
"Granny!" Naruto shouted as they entered his room. "Boy, am I glad to see you! Can you tell these doctor guys I'm ok so I can get out of here already? I'm gonna die of boredom!"
Tsunade rolled her eyes and moved to the bedside, then stopped and did a double-take. "Naruto? Why are you strapped to the bed?"
"Aww, man. One of the nurses caught me coming back from the bathroom and freaked out. I told her I was fine but she wouldn't listen!"
Shizune chuckled. "If a civilian nurse could strap you to the bed I think you're still a little weak."
"Hey! I'm just low on chakra, that's all."
Tsunade was less amused. But a quick diagnostic revealed that under the bandages the gaping hole in Naruto's chest had healed overnight, leaving only a shallow burn. Of his other injuries the more serious ones were well on their way to mending, while the incidental cuts and bruises were as she'd left them the previous evening. The strange scorching she'd noted throughout his chakra circulatory system, and which had mystified her at the time, was likewise mostly healed.
"Naruto, do you always heal this fast?" She asked as she assessed his chakra. The overpowering aura she'd felt in that fight with Orochimaru and Kabuto was reduced to a tiny trickle, but at that it was still more than most chuunin could muster.
"Yep. That's me, tough as a rock. I guess I'll be a little shaky for a few days, but I can get around fine as long as I don't try to fight anyone. So can you let me up now? Please?"
"Alright, kid. Just take it easy until your chakra gets back to normal, understand? I don't want you back in here because you had a second of weakness and fell off a roof or something."
"Alright! Thanks, granny!"
She swatted him lightly on the head. "Stop calling me that, knucklehead! One more 'granny' out of you and I'll leave you tied to that bed for a week."
"No, no, anything but that! They don't even have ramen here!"
"Then what do you call me?"
The slug Sannin palmed her face in exasperation. "Sure, kid. What the hell. Shizune, can you finish the amazing annoying boy's exam here? I've got to take care of something."
Hinata sat quietly on a roof across the street, sneaking glances of Naruto through his open window. She'd shut down her Byakugan and suppressed her chakra the instant the Hokage had entered the room, but she couldn't bear to pass up this last opportunity completely.
"I'm sorry I never got the chance to confess my feelings for you, Naruto." She said softly. "I always knew you'd go on to someone better. Someone brave and beautiful, who can fight by your side and show the whole world how much she loves you. I just wish I'd had the chance to have a little of you for myself first."
"Why can't you?" Came Tsunade's voice from behind her.
"Eep!" She leaped to her feet and whirled to face the unexpected sound. "Hokage-sama!" Then she realized how suspicious she must look, lurking on a roof spying on a boy who'd convinced the legendary slug Sannin to return to Konoha. "I'm sorry, Hokage-sama! I was just looking. I didn't mean any harm."
"Easy, girl. I'm not angry. But answer the question. The kid could use someone his own age right now."
The Hyuuga girl pulled the tattered shreds of her composure together, and bowed her head. "Father has decided that I will wed the Uchiha, ma'am. The day after tomorrow. So I'm afraid I no longer have anything to offer him."
Tsunade studied her with narrowed eyes. "I don't see a Caged Bird seal, and I can't see Hiashi letting you wander around alone if you knew you were going to get one soon. Don't tell me he wants to try another Dojutsu Unification seal?"
"That is clan business, Hokage-sama," The young kunoichi replied carefully. "So it would be grossly inappropriate for me to confirm that you are correct."
"I see the Hyuuga haven't changed." Tsunade commented. "Tell me something. Would you abandon your clan to be with Naruto?"
"Absolutely." Hinata replied without a second's hesitation. "But father would have him assassinated within the week. Naruto's life has been hard enough as it is, Hokage-sama. I won't do anything that would make it worse."
"Don't give up hope so quickly, girl. You never know what curve balls fate might throw you." Tsunade studied the girl's face as the pieces of a plan began coming together. It was insane, but it just might work.
"There might be a way out, if you want it bad enough." She went on after a moment. "But it would be dangerous. You'd have to give up your whole life here, you'd be in constant danger with no guarantee it would ever get better, and even then you probably wouldn't have him all to yourself."
The Hyuuga girl drew herself up, and met the Sannin's eyes. "Hokage-sama, if it means I can help Naruto I don't care what happens to me. Whatever your plan is, please include me if I can be of use."
Yep, she's got that Hyuuga obsessiveness alright. But the kid could really use some emotional support in his life, and she'd certainly give him that. Besides, Hiashi would blow a gasket for sure.
"Alright, Hinata. I want you to report to my office tomorrow morning for a detached duty assignment. Come prepared for deployment, and don't speculate to anyone about what your mission might be. Understand?"
Tsunade sent a shadow clone to take care of the few afternoon duties she couldn't completely put off, while she and Shizune plotted in her office.
"Why the hell is Anko in the 'unreliable/expendable' file? I remember her. Bright kid, a good fighter and a great infiltrator, a bit of a tramp but loyal as hell. She ought to be a jounin by now, easy."
"Orochimaru." Shizune replied. "She was his apprentice after you left, then came back to Konoha a year after his expulsion bearing a cursed seal. After that nothing will ever convince the clan heads of her loyalty. It looks like she's been picking up the worst of the assassination and infiltration missions for… oh, my. Eight years? I'm amazed she's still alive, let alone sane."
"Get her in here. If she's still the girl I remember she'll be all over this."
Anko was grinning like a lunatic long before Tsunade finished her cautious explanation. "So I get to give the old bastards a kick in the pants and still have it be a legitimate mission? I'm in, ma'am. I'll keep the kids safe wherever you want to send them. Oh, and let me know if you can't find enough volunteers."
Tsunade raised an eyebrow. "You do remember he's not even fourteen?"
"This is the little scamp with the shadow clones and the turn-into-a-hot-girl jutsu, right? Hell, with a few months of clone training he'll be older than I am, and if he isn't as kinky it's only a matter of time."
Tsunade chuckled. "You may have a point there, especially if this drags on for years the way it might. Just don't scar the kid for life, ok?"
"Never." Anko said seriously. "You know, I'm really not as crazy as I might seem. It's just, the way the damned seal eats at me all the time it's hard to stay in control, and with everyone in the village acting like I'm contagious I don't exactly have a lot of help."
After Anko left Shizune looked up from the draft she was working on. "She did have a point, you know. Using their own sick law against them is a nice touch, but it does require at least three girls. Since it's a civil law you can't amend it without a council vote, and that would give away the game."
"Sure, but nothing says they have to be Konoha girls. Check out this little gem." She tossed her aid a diplomatic dispatch from Sand. "Someone must have really been putting the screws to those guys, but can you imagine Danzo's reaction to this?"
Shizune read with wide eyes. "A marriage alliance? You're right, they must really be feeling insecure. Wait, with Naruto? Oh my, why on earth did they pick him?"
Tsunade laughed. "Think about how it looks from their intel reports. Here's this genin who's always telling people he's going to be the next Hokage, who's getting trained by Jiraiya and can kick their crazy junchuuriki's ass, and he's got blonde hair and blue eyes just like Minato. What do you think they're thinking?"
Shizune started to laugh too, but then a thought struck her. "Tsunade, do we actually know that they're wrong?"
"They aren't." Tsunade replied. "I knew it the first time he came at me with that Rasengan in his hand. He looks just like his father." She trailed off, and moved to stand by the window. "Why do you think I'm so pissed about the way they treat him? Even if they haven't been told, it should be obvious to anyone who knew Minato."
"I've had it with this town, Shizune. For all their talk about the Will of Fire, they destroy everything good they touch. I don't know where we'll end up when this is over, but I don't think it's going to be here."
Shizune had argued that they shouldn't tell Naruto in advance. He was a terrible actor, and if he said something that gave them away the whole plan would be ruined. But in the end Tsunade refused to make such permanent decisions about the boy's life without even consulting him.
Naruto was already in low spirits, having just heard about Sasuke's impending marriages from an excited Sakura. She was obviously thrilled that she'd made his list, even if the idea of sharing with Ino and Hinata put her off a bit. But what really crushed Naruto was the way she pretended to be completely oblivious to his reaction to the news. In the end he'd managed to half-heartedly congratulate her, and she'd gone skipping off to share the news with the rest of the known universe.
So he listened in unusual silence as Tsunade explained the situation.
"So, the council's going to kick me out because the Fire Lord's afraid of the damned fox?"
"Not quite. Usually when there's a problem with one of our ninja the Fire Lord sends the Hokage a 'request', and the Hokage takes care of it. But there's no way in hell I'm signing an order like that, and the clan heads know it. The council can't do shit to you without my approval as long as you're an active duty ninja, so I figure they'll ask the Fire Lord to banish you. Technically you'd still be a ninja of Konoha, but you wouldn't be allowed back in the country."
"I think I get it. So what are we gonna do?"
"I can't tell you all the details yet kid, but I promise you those bastards are in for a hell of a shock. I just need you to sit tight and not do anything stupid for a couple of days while I work things out, ok?"
"Sure thing, Tsu-chan. I trust you. But, um, if you're about to do something to piss everyone off anyway, is there anything you can do about Hinata? I mean, I know Sakura and Ino are all excited about marrying the bastard, but I don't think she is."
"No, she isn't." Tsunade said carefully. "That's actually another thing I wanted to ask you about. The way the law is written there aren't a lot of loopholes to work with, so I need to know how much she means to you. Would you be willing to put yourself out a lot to help her, or is she just an acquaintance you feel bad for?"
"She's my friend, Tsu-chan. I'd do anything to help her."
"Even if you had to marry her yourself?"
Naruto gaped at her. "What? But, she'd never do that! She's like a princess or something."
"I'm not asking what you think she wants. If it was her only way out, and she agreed, would you go that far for her?"
"Well, yeah. What kind of friend would I be if I left her stuck with a guy she hates?" Besides, he thought, it's not like she'd have to actually do anything with me. Yeah, we could just have a ceremony and pretend.
"That's what I thought. In case it comes up, are there any other girls you feel that way about?"
"Sakura. But she's thrilled about the whole thing. I don't really know any other girls."
The next morning's council meeting was a regular weekly event, originally organized by Sarutobi to handle those matters where the Hokage required the approval of the various clan heads. There were more of those in Konoha than most ninja villages, thanks to the efforts of the clans and the previous Hokage's odd democratic impulses.
Today the elders expected to hear an update on the progress of peace negotiations, and perhaps an argument over the newly approved Clan Restoration Act. Beyond that anything was possible, as it was only the new Hokage's second parties had expected a stormy session, but Tsunade seemed calm enough as she called the meeting to order.
"First order of business." She announced as she laid a stack of notes on the podium. "Progress on the peace negotiations with Sand. Not only have they agreed to our terms on border control and information sharing, they've also sent us a proposal for a marriage alliance. They're offering us the old Kage's daughter, Temari, as a bride for one of our village nobles. They're still haggling over details on the reparations we demanded, but I think this demonstrates that we've convinced them most of our military strength survived the recent attack. Considering how serious our actual losses were, and how minor the remaining disagreements on reparations are, I'm inclined to accept this version of the proposal. Your thoughts?"
As the inevitable argument started up, Tsunade had a moment to be grateful that no one had ever devised a jutsu that could copy long documents easily. Shizune acted as her clerk, reading out paragraphs as requested by the council, but no one expected to go through the whole 200-page treaty in detail. Most of the clan heads were focused on the money they stood to make from reparations, so as long as she could keep them focused on that…
"What about that marriage alliance?" Aburami asked. "Which clan did you have in mind?"
Tsunade shrugged. "The girl doesn't have any bloodlines or secret techniques, so she isn't all that important except as a symbol. I figure placing her with a lesser clan would send the right message. Someone with a good reputation and some ties to nobility, but not a lot of political power of their own. We've got a half dozen families with sons about the right age, so it shouldn't be hard to find one they'll go for."
"Quite right." Hiashi sniffed. "Place them in a properly subservient position from the outset, and we'll have less trouble from them later."
There was general agreement on that point, so they went back to haggling over who got how many bars of Suna iron. An hour later she called the vote, and the motion to accept the new treaty with minor revisions passed easily.
"Alright, next up is this Clan Restoration business. Personally I think mass artificial insemination would have been a more effective approach, but what's done is done. However, it seems to me that this law is just full of potential for abuse, so I want to establish a precedent for being especially careful about observing all the formalities whenever it gets invoked."
"The act specifically names the Uchiha as an endangered bloodline clan, so we don't need to do anything about that. But I do want to review his initial bride list, which I just received this morning. Sakura Haruno isn't a clan member, so she's automatically in. Ino Yamanaka and Hinata Hyuuga are obviously both clan members, so I need to verify their status. Yamanaka, do you want to declare Ino a protected clan resource and exempt her from the Act?"
"Are you kidding?" The Yamanaka patriarch chuckled. "She'd never let me hear the end of it. No, clan Yamanaka does not consider Ino a protected resource."
"Alright then, Ino's name stays on the list. Hyuuga, do you want to declare Hinata a protected clan resource and exempt her from the Act?"
"No." Hiashi's answer was crisp and emotionless.
"So noted. On to the last of today's business, then. I'm not sure you folks realized how many remnants of various clans we have in Konoha, but news of the Act is getting around. I've already gotten a whole stack of requests from various people for recognition as endangered clans. Several of them would qualify on everything but that ambiguous clause about the strength of their bloodline ability, so we're going to go through those here and vote on whether any of them seem worth recognizing."
"First off, we've got a guy who can hear bat calls. He claims his clan used to be able to control them for use as scouts, but he's got no idea how those techniques worked."
"Who is this fellow?" The Akimichi representative asked.
"I'd prefer not to embarrass our immigrant ninja with public rejections, especially since we sometimes have infiltration operations based around their quirks. If we vote to recognize one their identity will be made public in the restoration act filings."
There was some grumbling about this, but it was mostly out of habit. The clan heads certainly understood the importance of secrecy for infiltration missions.
"Well, I doubt his hearing is any better than ours." The Inuzuka representative commented. "If we ever want bat spies we've got a better chance of figuring out how to do it than this guy."
There was general agreement on that point, and Tsunade went on down her list.
"Alright, next is a kid with a prehensile tail. Hey, don't laugh, at least I spared you the app from the guy who has perfect teeth. Anyway, does anyone think that qualifies? No?"
"Next up, a couple of brothers who can change their hair color at will. No? Didn't think so."
"Then there's the most interesting of the bunch, a guy with a regeneration ability. It looks like this is actually a recurrence of that secret bloodline some of the northern villages had back before the last great war, probably carried south by refugees. Anyway, anyone think it should qualify?"
"I know a bit about that bloodline." Danzo commented eagerly. "It draws on the bearer's chakra for healing, but much more efficiently than normal medical jutsu. A chuunin who has it can often survive lethal hits, and a jounin is nearly unstoppable. Does the applicant have the enhanced endurance and poison resistance as well?"
Tsunade blinked in surprise. "You know, I hadn't thought of that. Now that you mention it though, his file does have some incidents along those lines."
"Quite a find. Yes, I believe it would be to Konoha's benefit to recognize this claim."
There was a bit more discussion, but in the end the vote wasn't even close.
The door to Tsunade's office flew open with a bang, startling Hinata into dropping the book she'd been examining. Anko finished sealing a stack of papers into a storage scroll, and looked up to meet the Hokage's manic grin with one of her own.
"Mission accomplished, ladies." The Sannin announced to the room. "Shizune should be back any minute with Naruto. How's it going on your end?"
"We're good to go." Anko chirped in answer. "We've got supplies for a month, a ton of spare gear, two copies each of all the ANBU and medic-nin training manuals and sixty thousand ryo for expenses. Everything a girl needs for a nice long training trip."
"Sixty thousand? Bah." Tsunade pulled a voucher from her desk and filled it in with a hasty scribble, before stamping it and handing it to Hinata. "Here kid, go get this filled while we finish up."
Hinata stared at the treasury draft. "Four hundred thousand ryo? Will the clerk actually fill this for a genin, hokage-sama?"
"Of course he will. Just do that Hyuuga thing, you know, put your nose in the air and act like it's pocket change. The stamp's all you need for anything under a half-million. Now shoo, we don't have time to waste."
Hinata bowed and left as Tsunade turned to the sealed vault beside her desk. It took two keys, six seals and an application of blood to open.
"Let's see now, what else?" She muttered a moment later as she rummaged through the scrolls and boxes within. "I never did get a chance to read all this stuff. Better leave the mission files, but some of this could be handy. Hey Anko, what's your element?"
"Fire, if I ever found someone who'd teach me techniques. Why?"
"The old man's jutsu library is in here. Hmm. Naruto and Hinata haven't been tested, so I guess I'll just have to take everything. Better safe than sorry. Here, start packing these up."
A minute later the looting was interrupted by the arrival of Naruto and Shizune, with Hinata returning on their heels.
"Wow, that's a lot of scrolls, Tsu-chan." Naruto commented. Anko chuckled at the familiar form of address, while Hinata stared at him.
"You never know what we might need, kid. Here Anko, put the Forbidden Scroll in there too. Naruto, sign this." She handed the blonde ninja an official-looking scroll.
He shrugged and signed without bothering to look at it. "Ok, what was that for?"
"Congratulations, kid. You're now officially the last surviving member of an endangered bloodline clan, just like Sasuke. Let's see now, it looks like the first girl on your list is Hinata Hyuuga. Oh, wait, she's already on Sasuke's list, isn't she? Shizune, what does the Act say about that?"
"Any cases of conflicting claims shall be resolved at the Hokage's discretion." Shizune recited with a sly smile.
"Oh, ok. Well, obviously Naruto's claim is superior so that Uchiha kid will just have to find someone else. " Tsunade pulled another document from the stack on her desk and stamped it. "There, that's all taken care of. Now, it looks like the second girl is Temari. Where have I heard that name before, Shizune?"
"She's the one mentioned in that marriage alliance offer from Suna, Hokage. You remember, they wanted Naruto to marry her to seal the peace treaty?
"Oh yeah, I remember now. Guess they won't be objecting, then. Well, who's the third lucky girl here? Oh, it's Anko. Hey Anko, do you have a clan head who might object?"
"Nope. Guess I'm stuck being the kid's personal sex kitten." The buxom assassin replied cheerfully. "Gee, I sure hope he doesn't figure out he can just order me to do any kinky thing that comes to mind whenever he wants."
Hinata blushed. Shizune snickered. Naruto looked terrified for a moment, until a thought struck him.
"Wait, wait, this is one of those 'underneath the underneath' things isn't it? I go to Suna with Hinata-chan so her dad can't make trouble, and Anko goes with us to make sure nothing happens to her or Temari?"
"Not quite, Naruto, but you're getting there." Tsunade answered. "Let's see, where was I? Oh, right. This is an especially promising bloodline, so I'm assigning Konoha's top two medic-nins to give you and your brides the best possible care. That's me and Shizune, in case you were wondering. Oh, but that means I won't be here to take care of the paperwork, doesn't it? Guess I'll have to appoint a stand-in."
She pulled another document from the stack and stamped it. "There we go. Jiraiya can sit in as acting Hokage for a year while we get things in order, and if I don't make it back for some strange reason he can take over permanently. Guess they'd better keep him happy, since he'll be the last S-rank ninja in Konoha."
Anko snickered. "Pretty slick, ma'am. Since you haven't resigned they can't touch us legally, and the only person they have to bitch at is the guy they can't afford to lose. Bet the old goat will have a lot of fun with it, too. So, you think they'll wise up and get the kid's exile rescinded?"
"Oh, they'll come around eventually. You have no idea how bad Jiraiya can get if there's no one around to keep him in line. We'll just tour whatever friendly nations will have us for a few months while the message sinks in. I can always have Jiraiya send us more money if we need it."
"Hey, can we visit Snow Country?" Naruto asked. "I've been wanting to see Yukie-chan again."
"Oh, the Snow Queen is 'Yukie-chan' to you is she?" Teased Anko. "Maybe we should have put her name on the list too."
Naruto sputtered. Hinata giggled. "We might need the help, Anko. Mass Shadow Clone, you know."
Naruto stared at the normally-shy girl like she'd grown a second head. Anko chortled and slapped her on the back. "Go, Hinata! We'll make a proper pervert out of you yet, girl!"
"Alright people, that's enough of that." Tsunade interrupted. "You can finish despoiling the kids' innocence later, Anko. But I want to be at least sixty miles from Konoha by nightfall, so we'd better get this show on the road."
They left in two groups. Naruto and Anko took the main gate, bearing a mission order with the Hokage's seal. Tsunade, Shizune and Hinata exited a different gate twenty minutes later, and the two parties were miles from the city wall before they joined up again. It was well after dark by the time an analyst on Danzo's staff put the departure lists from the two gates together and became concerned. By the time the oddity was confirmed and Danzo himself informed the Hokage's office was closed for the day, and it was far too late to disturb the clan heads for anything short of a definite emergency.
The old ninja was furious when he stopped by the Hokage's office the next morning and confirmed Tsunade's absence. The appointment of Jiraiya as acting Hokage didn't help, especially when it was discovered that the appointment was news to Jiraiya himself. The toad sage carefully inspected the sealed message left for him on the Hokage's desk, before deactivating the security seal and opening it.
Apparently the advisors wanted a figurehead instead of a real Hokage. Yeah, the idiots should have known better. But I'm not going to be their patsy while they ruin everything Konoha used to stand for, and I'm damned sure not going to put up with them going over my head to the Fire Lord to get rid of Naruto. So I'm going to be gone until they come to their senses.
Yeah, I know you don't want to be Hokage. So make sure they don't want you either. We're at peace now, so you can blow off most of the work and spend your time building up that 'super-pervert' image of yours. Make all the public baths co-ed. Change the female ANBU uniform to a bikini. Turn the Hokage's residence into strip club. The more outrageous you can get, the better. I want those idiots so desperate to have me back that they'll do whatever it takes to get the Fire Lord to rescind Naruto's exile.
If it doesn't work, you'll always be welcome to join us wherever we end up.
He contemplated the message in silence for a long moment, before incinerating it with a minor fire jutsu.
"Well?" Danzo demanded.
"Yep, she wants me to hold down the seat until she gets back. But I think we'd better check the records office, and see what else she did yesterday."
Konoha's official records office was located in the basement of the Hokage's tower, so it was a short trip. They arrived to find Hiashi Hyuuga clutching a sheaf of documents and nearly shouting at a terrified clerk.
"This! This is an outrage! What does that woman think she's doing? Where is she! I demand answers, damn you!"
Danzo stared at the normally unflappable elder in shock. Jiraiya merely grinned. "Why, Hiashi, what could possibly have you so upset?"
"This!" He growled, shoving the documents under Jiraiya's nose. "This is inexcusable. An outrage! Look at what that madwoman has done!"
The first document was an official filing under the Clan Restoration Act, naming one Uzumaki Naruto the last known bearer of a protected bloodline. The second was a proclamation resolving the conflicting Uzumaki and Uchiha claims on one Hyuuga Hinata in favor of the Uzumaki clan. After that came a marriage certificate signed by the Hokage herself, with Shizune and Anko as witnesses. Each document was stamped and filed within minutes of the previous one.
"Looks like you pissed her off, Hiashi." The Sannin chuckled. "Damn, the girl even renounced her clan. Well, they've already had their wedding night by now so you're just shit outta luck. But hey, it's only one girl. Under my leadership, temporary as it may be, we'll have lots of pretty girls!" He rubbed his hands eagerly. "First we need to fix up that dowdy old ANBU uniform, maybe go to a bare midriff and some nice mini-skirt action for the ladies. Then we can recruit some new instructors to update the academy curriculum, and give all our younger kunoichi some proper re-training. Yeah, the Bacchanaliates for the 'tease and please' bits, and the Black Rose Sisterhood for the dominatrix routine. I bet I can get them both to relocate to Konoha if we pay them enough. Oh, and that guy with the "asset" enhancement seal. Yeah, put that on all the academy girls, and we'll have a fine new crop of busty babes in a few years…"
The councilors shared a look of horrified realization, and backed slowly out of the room.