Choosing the Fourth
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Note: I did take some liberties with the timeline of Orochimaru leaving Konoha, but oh well.
The Third Hokage smiled benevolently at those gathered before him. "I'm sure you're all wondering why I've called you here…"
The three Sannin exchanged an amused look.
"Not really," Tsunade began. "You said if I came you'd sign off on my Hermit status."
"And you told me if I came you'd give me a blurb for me new book," Jiraiya added.
"And you told me you'd let me experiment on Iwa prisoners," Orochimaru said.
Everyone turned to the final occupant.
"…I'm actually curious, Hokage-Sama," Minato said respectfully.
Jiraiya looked devastated. "How could I have raised such a respectful brat? The shame! He's not even a pervert!" he wailed.
Tsunade looked between the two incomprehensively. "Wow. Are…are you sure he's yours?"
Jiraiya nodded sadly.
"You know, I think I may actually be more mature than my teacher is…" Minato remarked idly.
"You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone over the age of eight who isn't," Orochimaru pointed out.
"You guys could at least pretend to care," Sarutobi pouted.
"If you've mastered another new Jutsu, we don't care," Tsunade said bluntly, rolling her eyes. "Except…maybe Orochimaru."
The snake Sannin shook his head. "No, I stopped caring at around three hundred."
"That wasn't what I was going to say…" Sarutobi muttered.
"I believe you, Hokage-Sama," Minato said earnestly.
Jiraiya snorted. "No you don't."
"I know," Minato agreed, nodding, "but I'm trying to be polite."
Sarutobi looked sheepish. "Okay, so maybe that's exactly what I was going to say. But I have other news!" He waited, but his three students and his student's student all spectacularly failed to react. Looking rather put-out, he continued nonetheless, "I have decided to retire."
Again there was no reaction, but this time it was more from shock than apathy.
Tsunade found her voice first. "Can you do that?" she asked finally.
"I don't see why not," Sarutobi said, crossing his arms challengingly.
"All the other Hokage's have died while in office," Minato pointed out.
"There have only been two others!" Sarutobi cried.
"And they've both died in office," Minato said sagely.
"Kid's got a point," Jiraiya agreed.
"I know," Sarutobi confessed. "And I was planning on it, but I'm getting really old and it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon. I mean, what, am I supposed to just wait around until one of my many enemies gets around to trying to off me?"
"Maybe you could speed the process up if you weren't so infuriatingly diplomatic," Orochimaru hinted.
Sarutobi shook his head. "We've just finished a war. The other Villages had their chance," he insisted.
"So you need a successor," Tsunade realized.
"As the granddaughter, great niece, or student of all three of the Hokages to date, are you volunt-"
"Not it," Jiraiya interrupted.
"Not it," Tsunade called a split second later.
"I'll do it!" Minato volunteered.
Sarutobi tried – and failed – to hide his relief. "Good. So-"
Orochimaru cut him off. "Wait, what about me?"
Jiraiya looked confused. "What about you? If you wanted to call 'not it', you should have done it before Minato agreed to do it, like Tsunade-Hime and I did."
Orochimaru's eye twitched. "But I do want to do it, you idiot!"
"…Really?" Sarutobi asked, stunned. "Does that mean that we actually have two people who want to be Hokage? We've never even had ONE before!"
"Never?" Tsunade blinked. "What about you, Sensei?"
Sarutobi laughed. "Koharu and Homura called 'not it' and everyone insisted it had to be one of the three of us because we were Tobirama-Sensei's students."
"Really?" Minato asked, surprised to say the least. "It doesn't sound like them to turn down more power."
"Oh, being the 'Elder Council' allows them a great deal of power, but a lot less paperwork," Sarutobi explained. "Basically, the only one who can overrule them is me, so they often double-team me."
"That may cause problems someday, given the rather militant nature of the Council," Jiraiya noted. "But what about the first two Hokages? Are you saying that they didn't want the job either?"
"Not really," Sarutobi admitted. "Hashirama-sama just didn't want Madara Uchiha to be Hokage – and after that little incident of fratricide nobody else did, either – and after he died Tobirama-Sensei had to step up because Madara had already fled Konoha and no one else had any idea what to do."
"Wait…" Minato said. "Are you saying that Madara Uchiha is still alive?"
"Probably not," Sarutobi said, shaking his head. "He was still alive when he left, but that was quite some time ago. If nothing else he must've died of old age by now."
"Unless he found a path to immortality," Orochimaru suggested.
"Oh, not that again," Jiraiya groaned. "Come on, just accept it: it's not going to happen."
"But I-" Orochimaru began.
"Everyone dies eventually, get over it," Jiraiya said bluntly.
"You're always picking on my issues! What about Tsunade-Hime? She can't even think about blood for longer than five seconds without having a panic attack," Orochimaru pointed out.
"I would, but she would kick my ass," Jiraiya admitted.
"Damn straight," Tsunade agreed.
"Too bad those wonderful self-preservation instincts don't extend towards not letting her see what a pervert you are," Minato remarked.
"He's clearly hidden enough that she hasn't actually killed him yet," Sarutobi pointed out.
"I'm right here, you know," Jiraiya told them, annoyed.
"We know," his teacher and student chorused.
"Just checking," Jiraiya said.
"Okay, we need to decide amongst ourselves who's going to be the next Hokage," Sarutobi brought them all back on topic.
"Since I called 'not it' first, that means that if anything should happen to Minato and Orochimaru, and no one else wants to be Hokage, Tsunade-Hime has to be it before me," Jiraiya announced.
"What? Fine," Tsunade grumbled. "I suppose a two-person buffer between me and the position is safe enough."
"I don't know," Jiraiya mused. "Your necklace seems to indicate-"
"Not. One. Word," Tsunade growled.
Wisely, Jiraiya stayed silent.
"Personally, it doesn't matter to me as you would both make capable Hokages," Sarutobi admitted. "I just need it to be someone as Danzo has indicated that he wants the position."
Tsunade burst out laughing. "That fossil? He's ancient!"
"He's my age," Sarutobi said, offended.
"Which is why you're RETIRING, not seeking the position," Tsunade pointed out.
"He also has no morals," Jiraiya added.
"And he's a warmonger," Minato agreed.
"So how are we going to decide this?" Orochimaru asked. "I mean, I'm one of the three Sannin, I am your student as you were the Second Hokage's, I'm plenty old and experienced enough for the position, I'm powerful enough to be Hokage, I'm well-respected within Konoha…"
"Yeah, but have you ever noticed you give off the distinct air of a pedophile?" Jiraiya asked.
Orochimaru blinked. "I…pardon?"
"You do," Tsunade agreed. "I mean, as far as I know, you're not, but you do tend to come off that way and since the Hokage is supposed to wander around and spend time with small children, that may cause problems."
"Why do I come off as a pedophile?" Orochimaru demanded.
Minato coughed delicately. "Perhaps it's your intense and rather creepy interest in young boys?"
Orochimaru glared at him. "In their POWERS and their BLOODLINES," he hissed.
"We know that," Sarutobi assured him. "But you know how it looks."
"Minato, on the other hand, has a great reputation as the Yellow Flash, who enemy shinobi were ordered to flee before facing, he's young and energetic so he should be around for awhile, he has the appropriate temperament for a Hokage, he's the student of the student of a Hokage, so it's still keeping it in the family…" Jiraiya extolled Minato's virtues.
"You're only saying that because you want to say you've trained a Hokage," Orochimaru sniped.
"And you only want to be Hokage because you think it'll help you become immortal," Jiraiya shot back.
"Maybe we should ask them some questions about hypothetical situations they might face as Hokage and see how they would handle them?" Tsunade suggested it.
"Good idea," Sarutobi agreed. "Let's see…if we were ever attacked by one of the nine demons during your reign, how would you handle it?"
"I would sacrifice life to seal the demon inside the belly of a child," Minato said heroically. "Sure, my soul would be eaten by a shinigami, but at least Konoha would be safe."
Sarutobi nodded approvingly. "And you?" he asked Orochimaru.
"What would there be to handle?" Orochimaru shrugged. "It's every shinobi for himself. Besides, it I were to die, you'd have to go out and find another Hokage, which seems to be a very unpopular position."
"I'd still be around," Minato offered.
"You'd probably find some way to heroically-yet-stupidly sacrifice yourself during the attack," Orochimaru pointed out.
"True…" Minato agreed reluctantly.
"Assuming that we go with Minato's scenario and create a Jinchuriki," Sarutobi came to question two. "How do you believe this child should be treated?"
"He should be a hero for the sacrifice he made for the Village and – indeed – the world," Minato said firmly.
"I guess having such a weapon could be useful…" Orochimaru mused.
Everyone stared at him.
"What?" he snapped. "All the other Villages do it!"
"If you became aware of a coup being planned, how would you react?" Sarutobi asked his third question.
"I would meet with the head of the Uchiha and determine why they wanted a coup. I would try and address their legitimate concerns and hold those involved responsible for sedition if not outright treason," Minato decided.
"I never said it was the Uchiha," Sarutobi pointed out.
"We all know it would be," Tsunade waved her hand dismissively. "The Hyuuga are the only other clan big enough to pull something like that off and they have way too many internal issues to manage one."
"How would you handle it?" Jiraiya asked. "Wait…let me guess…you would kill them all."
"According to Section 17 of the Konoha Constitution, I would be well within my rights," Orochimaru said defensively.
"Section 17?" Sarutobi asked.
"Haven't you read the Constitution?" There was silence. "NONE of you have?" Orochimaru asked incredulously.
"I didn't even know we had a Constitution…" Jiraiya admitted.
"Oh for the love of…for the record, this is another reason I should be Hokage. Section 17 is also known as the 'Government-Sponsored Genocide' clause because it gives the Konoha Government the right to wipe out a clan in the event of a coup," Orochimaru explained.
"And people…agreed to this?" Minato couldn't believe it.
"The Constitution was signed by the first and second Hokages and Madara and Izuna Uchiha," Orochimaru nodded. "And since the only two clans in Konoha at the time of the signing where the Senju and the Uchiha, they had to know that there was a fifty-fifty chance of their clan being the one this applied to if ever used. Of course, given that the Sharingan united the Uchiha far more than the bloodline-less Senju, it was much more likely it would apply to the Uchiha."
"And people…AGREED to this?" Minato repeated, no less incredulous than before.
Orochimaru shrugged. "As long as they don't plan a coup, there shouldn't be a problem."
"Is there really a clause about there?" Sarutobi inquired curiously. "I've got to ask Koharu and Homura to look that up…"
"I don't think that's such a good idea…" Tsunade told him.
"Don't be silly, it's a government law and they are government leaders. Why shouldn't they know?" Sarutobi asked.
"Because they're just militant enough to use it," Tsunade muttered.
"What was that?" Sarutobi asked.
"Nothing," Tsunade sighed, not willing to argue the point.
"Question Four: What would you do if Konoha was being invaded by a force led by one of your former students?" Sarutobi asked.
"Kill them," Orochimaru said shortly.
"I would put my foot down and INSIST that Kakashi see that psychiatrist," Minato replied.
"What?" Jiraiya asked.
"Kakashi is my only surviving student," Minato explained. "And he's never really been power-hungry, so if he decided to lead a force to invade, either something else was going on or he needs a great deal of psychological help."
"Alright then. Final Question: What would you do if the last member of a prominent bloodline were attempting to defect from Konoha to gain more power to…let's go with…get vengeance?" Sarutobi asked.
"If I had to, though it would greatly sadden me, I would kill him so he would not endanger Konoha by revealing sensitive information to other Villages," Minato said sadly.
"A prominent bloodline? How prominent are we talking?" Orochimaru asked.
"Does it matter?" Tsunade demanded.
"Absolutely," Orochimaru said firmly.
"Alright…how about Hyuuga or Uchiha level of prominence?" Sarutobi clarified.
"Well, in that case I would have no choice but to throw as many less-important shinobi at the problem as it took in order to secure the Uchiha or Hyuuga," Orochimaru declared. "After all, losing either the Byakugan or the Sharingan would be a great travesty indeed."
"Hm…what do you guys think?" Sarutobi asked, turning to the two Sannin not in the contest.
"I say we go with Minato," Jiraiya said immediately.
"I'm tempted to go with Orochimaru so you'll actually have to make your own decision," Tsunade admitted.
"Don't be so sure," Sarutobi said smugly. "I could always poll Koharu and Homura."
"Letting them have anything to do with choosing the Hokage could set a dangerous precedent," Minato pointed out.
"Hm, I have a way!" Tsunade smirked evilly and removed her necklace from around her neck.
Orochimaru paled. "Don't tell me…"
"Yep," Tsunade nodded. "Whoever puts on the necklace gets my vote."
"What's the big deal?" Minato asked. "It's just a necklace."
"It's a cursed necklace," Jiraiya explained. "It belonged to the First Hokage, who gave it to Tsunade. She gave it to her brother and then her boyfriend and they died almost immediately afterwards."
"Oh," Minato looked awkward. "Well, that's very unfortunate, but I don't think that makes it's cursed. Give me that," he said, taking the necklace from Tsunade and putting it on.
"Well," Tsunade said, eying him cautiously. "You appear to be fine, so unless Orochimaru puts the necklace on as well and assuming you won't die within the week, you have my vote."
"Well, Orochimaru?" Sarutobi asked.
Minato took off the necklace and held it out to him.
Orochimaru – who had watched both Dan and Nawaki die – backed away a little. "Yeah, not happening…"
"Well, in that case it's 2-0 in Mianto's favor, even without my vote," Sarutobi said. "Sorry, Orochimaru, but it looks like Minato will be the Fourth Hokage."
"Yes!" Minato cheered.
"YES!" If anything, Jiraiya sounded more excited than his student. "Now let's see if I can train two…"
"But he's not nearly experienced enough!" Orochimaru protested.
"You agreed to the contest, remember?" Sarutobi reminded him.
"This is so stupid…I'm leaving," Orochimaru grabbed something off the Hokage desk and stormed out of the room.
"Hey, that bastard stole my hermit license!" Tsunade complained.
"I'll get you a new one," Sarutobi promised.
"And one for Shizune," Tsunade added.
"Hokage-Sama!" an ANBU with a dog mask hurried into the room.
"Hey Kakashi," Minato greeted his student. "I just got named Hokage-Sama's successor."
"Congratulations," Kakashi told him sincerely. "Does that mean he's planning on dying in battle soon?"
"No, I'm stepping down," Sarutobi corrected.
"Can you DO-" Kakashi began.
"We've been over this," Sarutobi groaned. "And since I'm quitting and have a successor, people will just have to deal with it."
"Did you need something, Kakashi?" Jiraiya asked.
"Oh, right. You'll NEVER guess what we just found in Orochimaru's laboratory…"