Short chapter, but I have a short ch. for Kage's bunshin written too that I will release tomorrow once I type up. : ) I think I've officially gone over to the dark side. Poor Minato, I really wasn't planning on doing this to him, but it seemed like the right conclusion.
The two adults in the room watched silently as the children worked things out among themselves. The decision was made; now all that mattered was how they handled it. Mito especially felt hopeful while watching the trio. They reminded her of a young woman and two brothers who long ago had braved the perils of the ninja world together. She got the distinct impression that they would change the ninja world one day and she only regretted that she wouldn't be there to see it.
She caught Sarutobi's eye and he nodded. The man cleared his throat, catching the attention of the children.
"We will contact the three of you after we've spoken to the council, but most likely Naruto will be summoned for questioning. Prepare yourself."
Naruto nodded seriously and Sarutobi continued. "Expect to be interrogated by a Yamanaka before the council votes."
Naruto's eyes flickered to Mito even as both Kushina and Minato stepped closer to him protectively. Mito gave a small nod as Kushina erupted.
"What! Only enemies get interrogated!" She said accusingly, with her small fists flying and chubby chin quaking with anger.
Naruto smiled at her soothingly. "It's ok. I'm not an enemy of Konoha, so they wont hurt me."
She calmed down a bit, but still looked offended.
"Naruto's right," Sarutobi said calmly.
"It will be a test of his loyalty, nothing more."
Minato's expression remained blank throughout all this, a sure sign of his disbelief. Naruto looked at Sarutobi nervously, his brows knit together in worry.
"Wont it be dangerous for the Yamanaka? There's still some chakra in my seal. I don't know what will happen if he encounters it while he's in my mind."
Sarutobi raised an eyebrow at that.
"How do you know that the Yamanaka are mindwalkers?"
Naruto smiled wryly at that. "Bingo books, of course." Sarutobi hmmed, but said nothing further.
It was Mito who answered Naruto's question.
"Only a qualified seal master such as myself should examine your seal. If it has a mental manifestation, it'll be best if the interrogator avoids it."
Naruto sighed in relief while Hiruzen narrowed his eyes imperceptibly.
"Very well." The man said a little stiffly. "Dismissed."
Perhaps sensing the Hokage's frustration at the lack of information he'd received, the three dashed out of the room without a backwards glance.
Sarutobi turned to Mito. "Explain." He ordered, patience exhausted.
Mito sighed. "Remember Kinkaku and Ginkaku? It seems that they weren't the only ones who had some of the Kyuubi's chakra. Some asshole had the bright idea of sealing some of it into a small child and using him as a weapon.
The boy gained enough control of it to survive, but he obviously wasn't expected to live long. The chakra wont kill him outright, but without more of it he'll die. Naruto's body has held out surprisingly well and I believe that with help he can withstand the full brunt of the Kyuubi's chakra and even be able to control it someday."
As a ninja who had survived to old age Mito was of course a consummate liar. She played on Sarutobi's kind nature and concocted a story just believable enough to be true.
And it worked. Mito had been Sarutobi's greatest supported and confidant when he became Hokage in his teens. While he didn't have to deal with politics until after the war, his gentle nature and inexperience were held against him regardless. As the closest thing to a predecessor he had left, she stood by hi and lend him both her powerful support and wisdom. The woman had eventually become something of a surrogate mother to him and he had great faith in her judgment. Still...
"If that's the case, then it's possible he was sent for this purpose. Did he give you any more specific information?"
Mito's face grew grave as she answered, "He wouldn't say much about where he came from, but the boy has a great deal of information from his travels that we can benefit from. You know as well as I do the dangers and restrictions village ninja face in gathering information. Your student may have more luck on his travels, but the information shared among missing-nin is inevitably superior.
Apparently word has been going around that Akatsuki is gathering up power and recruiting. Naruto's shishou apparently had had a few encounters with the group and warned the boy both that the true leader of the group was a sharingan wielder and that Naruto might be targeted for the Kyuubi's chakra that he contains. I don't know about you, but when I think of rogue Uchiha that covet the Kyuubi, I can only think of one man."
Sarutobi straightened up a bit in his chair, alarmed. He had only seen Mito this grim a handful of times.
"I have no choice but to conclude that Madara is still alive somehow, and just as intent on destroying this village as he once was."
Sarutobi's eyes widened and true fear for his village showed on his face for the first time in many years.
Mito nodded tensely. "That's what I thought as well. But the fact of the matter is that with the exception of his arm, Madara's body was unaccounted for after the battle at the valley of the end. We were sure he was dead, but that man has always been full of surprises." Mito finished darkly.
Hiruzen's brilliant mind flashed through the possibilities. He frowned thoughtfully. "Just who was that boy's sensei, anyway? I can't think of many ninja that would survive an encounter with Madara."
Mito shook her head and her lips thinned stubbornly. "That is a little piece of knowledge that I will be taking to the grave with me. Just know that the boy is completely trustworthy or I would never risk choosing him as the next jinchuuriki. More than that, I will not say."
And true to her word, Mito's jaw clamped shut and Sarutobi knew the old battleaxe wouldn't budge any further. He sighed in defeat.
"Very well, I will trust your judgment on this matter."
Mito grinned winningly and Sarutobi stifled another sigh; it was moments like these that he could clearly see the relation between Mito and Kushina despite the gray that had replaced Mito's red hair.
The Hokage wondered briefly if he should call the council of elders now despite the general council meeting that had recently adjourned. It would be best if he had their support before bringing this matter before the general council, but he didn't really want to deal with them after the shock this meeting had given him.
Sarutobi shrugged mentally, it wasn't like they had anything else to do with their time and it was probably best to just get it over with. The old council elders had died during the last war and his teammates had taken their place. He personally thought that they were still too young to be retired advisers, but the seats had to be filled, and they happened to be the most qualified for the job.
That didn't keep him from wanting to groan, though. He could already picture the disapproving frowns his former teammates would direct his way. Why did he become Hokage again? Oh yeah, someone had to do it.
That didn't make the job any less an exercise in tedium and frustration. Especially with Danzo's increasingly creepy suggestions regarding the training of the next generation. He would undoubtedly be the hardest to convince to accept Naruto as the next jinchuuriki.
With a weary sigh, Hiruzen sent the summons and sat back to wait. Mito stood waiting serenely and Hiruzen marveled as always at the woman's confidence and composure. He himself schooled his features into blankness, wondering if one day he too would be able to project such tranquility at a moments notice.
The door to the Hokage's office opened and Sarutobi suppressed a grimace as Danzo entered unannounced; trailed by his former teammates. He really needed to hurry and find a candidate for the position of Yondaime; preferably someone with an irreproachable record.
Somehow in the years he'd been off the battlefield his councilors had lost respect for him. His personal friendship with them made things doubly difficult, but Hiruzen could not bring himself to be harsh with his most trusted comrades.
The best solution, then, was to find a reliable successor and support them after he'd retired. If need be, the power of two Hokage's would be more than enough to over-rule the council should the need present itself.
It's also be a convenient way to escape the mounds of paperwork that had taken him away from his family and aged him prematurely for far too long.
Regrettably, the biggest problem with this masterplan was finding a suitable successor. As much as it grieved him to admit none of his students were truly suited to take over the position, either by inclination or nature. He'd thought once that Tsunade had what it took to become a splendid Hokage, but her personal tragedies had ruined that and left the village short of one of its strongest and most passionate protectors.
He still grieved privately for the loss that the girl he'd thought of as his own daughter had suffered, but regardless he needed to find a suitable heir to take his place. Oh, he knew all of his students had it in them even now to become Hokage, but he suspected that at this point it would take something truly drastic to bring it out in them and he had no intention of waiting for it to come to that.
Oddly enough, he mused as he waited for Danzo to break down and ask why he'd been summoned, he had a feeling he already knew who his successor would be and now he just needed to wait for the child to grow up.
He smiled cheerfully despite the tense atmosphere and saw Danzo frown darkly in response.
"Why have you summoned us, Hiruzen?" Danzo finally asked impatiently.
Hiruzen's peaceful smile remained as he answered, "Mito-sama has selected a different child to become the jinchuuriki and I have approved of her choice. You have been summoned to give your opinions on the matter."
Danzo's eyes sharpened even as his face remained impassive, but he made no move to speak. In the end it was Koharu who asked the obvious question.
"What child could be better suited than the Uzumaki girl?"
Hiruzen nodded to Mito who spoke after a moment of thought.
"The youngest Namikaze brother contains a portion of the Kyuubi's chakra already and has demonstrated the ability to control and use it to a more advanced degree than even I am capable of. There is some doubt as to whether he would be able to do the same with all of the Kyuubi's chakra, but I believe that with Kushina-kun's help he will eventually be able to completely control the beast."
Her pronouncement met with complete silence and even Hiruzen looked surprised.
Danzo's eyes glittered with both greed and suspicion as he jumped at this chance to increase his political power.
"From what you say the boy had potential," he began in his gravelly voice. "but his loyalty is highly suspect. We can't be sure he isn't a spy sent for this very purpose. And even if he's not, there's no guarantee he wont turn on Konoha one day. With the right training, however he could become of the most powerful shinobi in our ranks."
Homura sent him a sharp glance. "Even that may be too great a risk. If he loses control when the Uzumaki child isn't present, his loyalty or lack thereof will become a moot point."
Mito grinned ferally in response to the callous way they spoke of the boy's future, causing both Koharu and Homura to tense slightly.
"Those with kekkei genkai like Kushina can give into the fox's will just as easily as those without. There's a reason Kinkaku and Ginkaku were so vicious, even though their likely descent from the Rikudou Sennin gave them immunity to its chakra.
Even jinchuuriki like Yagura who are ostensible able to control their bijuu usually end up showing signs of corruption eventually. Yet a seven year old child has shown the ability to control the chakra of the strongest tailed beast without being overcome by its will. That, more than anything, is why I have chosen him." She finished simply.
"But beware," she continued, staring sternly at Danzo, "His will will be the greatest asset we have in holding back the demon. If his will is broken, as tends to be a consequence of your 'training' methods, that advantage will be rendered useless."
Danzo looked thoughtful for a moment before bowing his head to the elder kunoichi's wisdom.
"I understand. Still, there needs to be some check on his power besides the Uzumaki girl. Something to ensure his loyalty above all else." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I have, of course, read the boy's file. The information known about him is vague at best and the only sure tie he has to this village is his brother.
So what better way to guarantee his cooperation than making his brother responsible for keeping an eye on him? I know you have already spoken to the boy about this, Hiruzen, but I think that alone is insufficient. Namikaze-kun has shown an aptitude for fuinjutsu and restraining and containment seals are a specialty of mine as you know.
Allow me to teach the boy and I have full confidence that the safety of the village can be insured in addition to turning a recognized prodigy into a ninja that may one day be capable of leading this village"
It went unsaid that this arrangement would be the compromise necessary to gain Danzo's approval on this matter. One glance at his councilors showed Sarutobi that they were satisfied with the solution as well, and he knew that he would need the support of the elder council in order to quiet the concerns of the general council. But that didn't mean he would give in to Danzo's subtle blackmail without turning the situation to his own advantage.
"I am willing to agree to your terms on the condition that Minato be turned over completely to an instructor of my choosing once he becomes a chuunin." Danzo's eyes shown with victory for a moment before Hiruzen continued.
"In addition, once that time comes, Root will be disbanded and integrated back into Konoha's forces. The war is over and there is no further need for the training of elite child soldiers. While I will not be relaxing the academy's standards any time soon, I see no need to continue sacrificing more children's childhood's to a war machine that is currently unnecessary."
The tone of the Hokage's voice was unyielding and Danzo recognized an order when he heard it. Despite this, he was not willing to leave this discussion without one more concession is his favor.
He bowed his head in insincere submission and spoke formally. "I understand, Hokage-sama. Might I then request that a tracking seal be placed on the new jinchuuriki? It would ease my mind to know the boy's whereabouts at all times if I am to be unable to have my people keep tabs on him in the future."
Hiruzen barely suppressed a snort. Sly bastard. He'd managed to both threaten Naruto's safety and imply that his people would never change loyalties while still managing to sound like he was conceding the battle. Hiruzen appreciated the cleverness Danzo displayed as always, even though it was a thorn in his side once again.
Hiruzen nodded his acceptance of their deal and listened while the man proceeded to convince his teammates to do the same. He had his doubts about this decision, but he was well aware that it was the best way to ensure the boys' future while curbing Danzo's power.
After the other ninja had left his office, Mito turned to him with a slightly disappointed expression that made him want to cringe.
"I know. But it's the best I can do at this point, and his position isn't without its merit. I don't like the idea of turning Minato-kun's training over to him, but the restrictions on Naruto will be far less as a result of this and I have no doubt that Minato-kun would prefer it that way."
Mito's gaze softened a bit and she said a bit regretfully, "That's true, but Naruto will not be happy about this."
Hiruzen sighed tiredly, "He's not the only one, but we'll just have to trust Minato to protect his brother at all costs. You saw the way he reacted to the news of Naruto becoming the jinchuuriki. If he's going to protect the boy, he'll need to know exactly what sort of danger lies in store for him and this is the best way to accomplish that."
Mito cracked a wry smile at that. "It's good to see you haven't lost your touch in using that man's twisted ideals to their fullest.
Hiruzen returned her smile sadly. "Of course, he's my oldest friend, after all."