Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Note: From what I can tell, a council of Daimyos is supposed to decide who makes Chuunin, but since none of them really have names or personalities, I've decided that they all left in the wake of the invasion attempt and so the Council was left to decide who qualified.
"How did this become our job again?" Homura asked as he and his fellow Council member, Koharu, sat in the newly rebuilt Hokage's office. Jiraiya was refusing, yet again, to become the Godaime but had yet to come up with a suitable alternative so the job of running Konoha fell to the Council. Normally, they would have been ecstatic but in the wake of the invasion…not so much.
"The Daimyos fled during the invasion and refuse to come back," Koharu replied patiently. "I'm not sure why they thought it could be at all impartial that we decide who passed this exam seeing as how we're from Konoha. I don't know about you, but in light of recent events I have no inclination to promote anyone from either Oto or Suna."
"I'll bet Oto's not even a real village," Homura agreed. "Remember the good old days where villages had standards and any idiot with a grudge couldn't start a cult and declare himself Kage?"
"I do," Koharu said nostalgically. "Even when Uchiha Madara left, he went and became Kage of an already established village."
"Kiri, right?" Homura asked.
"I believe so," Koharu said. "Young people these days…"
"Still, founding your own village is at least better than planning a coup like-" Homura cut himself off. Even when they were alone, they rarely spoke of the massacre.
"Agreed," Koharu said. "Speaking of, now that Hiruzen is dead, what do you want to bet that he'll be back to threaten us about his brother?"
"If he's still alive, he'll be here," Homura prophesized. "I don't see why he thinks he needs to bother though. During every single one of his biannual reports he always ends with a 'And remember, if you even think about touching Sasuke I will make you suffer before I kill you. Keep safe and see you in six months.'"
"Yes, but he knows that we were against Hiruzen's decision to let the little brat live in the first place," Koharu pointed out. "Still, it's been four years and he's yet to show any sign of disloyalty or knowledge of what happened. If we wanted to kill him now we'd either have to do it ourselves-"
"Hardly befitting anyone of our position," Homura interrupted.
Koharu nodded. "Or have Danzo sent one of his supposedly defunct ROOT operatives. No one else would possibly consent to killing a child for something that happened years ago when he was eight that he has no knowledge of."
"And then of course there is the fact that back then he could have been seen as a threat. Now, enough time has passed that we can be reasonably sure that he won't and he can't very well overthrow us on his own. This is Konoha after all: we have standards," Homura said proudly.
"Danzo might try something, though," Komura said thoughtfully.
Homura shook his head in irritation."Honestly. That man has some good ideas, but he's too fixated on the idea of being Hokage. He's just too warlike in the wake of an invasion. If we do not want war with Suna AND Oto, he can't take control."
"We don't have to promote any Oto ninja," Koharu realized brightly. "We wouldn't have anyway, but now there won't even by any question about it: the only Oto nin in the finals was Dosu and he was killed by Gaara before Finals even started."
"And as far as Suna goes, Kankuro forfeited so he blew his chance and Gaara was only fighting for five minutes or so before the invasion started," Homura said. "Not to mention that Gaara didn't actually do anything but stand around and either let his sand shield him or crush people with it. Chuunins need to be just a bit more versatile than that. And then there's his appalling lack of self control! He gets hit one time and starts to have a mental breakdown."
"Well, he is the Suna Jinchuriki," Koharu pointed out.
"So?" Homura asked. "God, I feel like the parent of a hyperactive little kid who's embarrassed by his behavior until there's a play date with a child who lights cats on fire."
"Well," Koharu said, trying to be fair. "The Yondaime was an unparalleled seal master so it's only be expected that Naruto is less affected by the Kyuubi."
"It's like they didn't even TRY, though," Homura complained.
"Well, they're gone now so we don't have to worry about it," Koharu consoled him. "Kankuro's forfeit means that Shino's out too, since he didn't fight. What about Sasuke?"
"He did well in his fight – or what we saw of it – but the fact remains that he was over three hours late and if it had been anyone else but him, he would have been disqualified. Hiruzen tried to disqualify him, in fact, but the Kazek-Orochimaru insisted he be allowed to fight as that fight was apparently the signal to start the invasion. His sensei is Kakashi, so his behavior is understandable but we cannot have Chuunins so chronically late. God, if Kakashi weren't already a Jounin by the time he forgot how to tell time…" Homura shook his head ruefully. "Do you think he ever wonders why we tell him to be somewhere four hours before we actually need him there?"
"Who knows," Koharu said. "Do you remember that time he showed up only three and a half hours late and we complimented him on being early?"
Homura chuckled at the memory. "He didn't show up for anything until the day after for the next month."
"How about Temari?" Koharu asked. "I hate to admit it, but she did quite well. She technically won, but it was clear she was outclassed by Shikamaru but that was only because his intellect is astounding."
"She made a very strong showing in the prelims against Tenten," Homura conceded. "But we're not supposed to consider those and as good as she was, the fact remains that Shikamaru was leading her along every step of the way. That combined with the fact that she helped invade us and kill our teammate means that I'm going to go with 'no' on her promotion."
"How about Shikamaru? He gave up in the end, but his strategy was brilliant," Koharu said.
"Winning was never a qualification for promotion," Homura noted. "Besides, Naruto had to shove him down into the arena because he couldn't be bothered to use the stairs. What are the odds he'd ever be willing to enter another exam after how extraordinary this one turned out to be? It's basically now or never."
Koharu thought about that for maybe half a second. "I say we promote him. The responsibility will be good for him."
"Alright, that's one for seven," Homura remarked. "Meaning that this exam wasn't a total waste."
"Good," Koharu said vehemently. "Because if we had to go through all of this and lose Hiruzen and not even have anything to show for it…Better yet, he's a Konoha ninja. Who's left? Neji and Naruto?"
"Naruto did far better than expected. According to Ibiki he left his test sheet blank apart from his name but stopped his teammate from giving up even though they thought if they failed the exam they would never become Chuunin, he managed to survive an encounter with Orochimaru with only a sealing, and he managed to beat Kiba who himself would be a good candidate for Chuunin. Granted it was a fluke, but he still managed it," Homura summarized.
"And then in the Finals themselves he took down the Hyuuga prodigy even though his chakra was sealed up. Also, he appeared to have changed the course of Neji's life. I'm still not quite sure how that happened, but that seems to be typical of him. Still, a Chuunin is supposed to know when to quit and he should have several times. The fact that sheer determination managed to get him this far doesn't mean it will always work. Besides," Koharu said conspiratorially, "I hear he still can't make a buushin."
"He's a very strong candidate," Homura agreed. "But not quite up there yet. If he continues training with Jiraiya and takes the exam in six months, he's sure to make it."
"And if we're not promoting him then there's no way we're promoting Neji. He's brilliant, but he needs to finish sorting through his various personal issues. A Chuunin cannot pause in the middle of a fight to lecture his opponents on how weak they are and how they need to give up, he needs to beat them. Granted he is showing signs of changing, but it's not conclusive yet. Like Naruto, he takes the exam in six months he should be fine," Koharu decided.
"Well, now that that's settled," Homura said. "Let's go make Jiraiya come up with a substitute Hokage before Danzo makes the 'ex' ROOTS give him glowing recommendations again."
"That was creepy," Koharu agreed. "And I don't think they were supposed to be saying the 'smile warmly' and 'nod reassuringly' parts…"