I do not own Naruto, or receive any material benefits from it.

The Hokage Way

By Larry Huss

Uchiha Itachi sat quietly in the shadows of the Hokage's office as the Elders Danzo, Homura, and Koharu delivered their ultimatum to Sarutobi. Using the information that Itachi had brought them they had created a logical case that the only way to absolutely prevent the planned Uchiha coup against Konoha was to eliminate the Uchiha clan. Behind his impassive façade the fifteen year old felt mental distress strong enough to cause him stomach pains and a blinding migraine. Danzo's final statement rang in his ears: "The Uchiha name must become extinct! If you fail in the elimination of this threat, we of the Council will have to allow all the ninja of Konoha to know the truth of your failure, and your other secret failures due to sentimentality and weak will!"

The Hokage winced at that, and then a pensive expression crossed his face as he looked at his closest advisors. "Yes, like most ninjas I have my little secrets that I would wish to keep from general knowledge. Yet in my own, inept way I too love Konoha and wish for its preservation. The Uchiha threat will be drowned in enough blood to sicken me, don't worry about that. I have taken oaths to preserve our village. I have studied the founding Charter more than most, and understand what my duties are to all of its population.

"I will have loyal Itachi do the work; the more who are involved, the more who can betray. He will stay here after you leave for his briefing. Now that you have browbeaten an old man, do you have any other list of citizens you wish disposed of? No? Then leave this to me; all ninja affairs are the Hokage's business, after all."

Koharu brought up a new order of business; the treatment of the Konoha Jinchuriki. The boy was growing up wild and undisciplined on the streets; even the orphanage hadn't been able to stand his chaotic actions. It was time that he was brought under proper discipline, and educated so that he would have some skills to use along with his huge raw Chakra reserves. Accordingly, the unanimous agreement of his Select Committee of advisors was that the boy be placed under the complete control of a responsible adult ninja. To avoid upsetting the delicate balance between the clans, and because a field operative Jonin would be too busy to pay enough attention to the Container, the Elder Danzo (acknowledged as an expert in discipline and indoctrination) will have the post of Jinchuriki Master. Suitable seals and chakra suppressors will be put on the boy to allow a proper degree of control to be obtained at all times, with only the Elder and the Hokage having the necessary control codes.

Sarutobi wondered what bribe or promised votes in future decisions Danzo had used to get his little voting bloc together. Usually the two others on the Select Committee could be relied upon to quibble with each other too much for such a consensus to form. Being blind-sided by this today was just another reminder to the old man that he was no longer fully capable of handling the demands of his office, and was losing more ground every year. The trouble was that there were no viable replacement candidates available. The great clans would oppose anyone from their rivals, while none of smaller ones had a leader with enough prestige to be acclaimed. If only Jiraiya and Tsunade weren't so damaged…

Promising in a sad and defeated tone that the orders and plans would all be ready in a week or two, Sarutobi brought the meeting to a close. Danzo's face was as sour and impassive as ever, but there was a spring in his limping steps that hadn't been in them for twenty years or more. The two others left, but snuck a few guilty glances at their Hokage, and each other. Yes, Sarutobi thought, it would be worthwhile to have ANBU check out if large sums of money had recently changed hands. Or perhaps some petitions to place children or grandchildren in cushy posts would be soon coming across his desk to be rubber-stamped by a cowed Hokage.

Itachi was puzzled by the Hokage sitting quietly, with eyes closed, his hands making small motions (not seals or signs of anything) until it became clear that some complicated interweaving of plots and plans was being created. After a silent half-hour Sarutobi's eyes opened, and with a look of disgust on his face he began to write furiously. First one sheet of paper, then another was filled with hurried writing, then folded and closed with "Your Eyes Only" seals. Having early in life developed his
Sharingan well enough to catch the drift of things being written in front of him Itachi saw that letters were being sent to both Koharu and Homura. Why Danzo was being left off the list Itachi couldn't figure.

The Hokage snorted as he finished: "Delicate political balance depending on one boy, while they wipe out one of the founding clans! Do they really think me that senile? Thinking that letting Danzo make the child a weapon would mean greater safety for anyone, who's senile now?" The old man subsided, and in a sad voice continued.

"Itachi, I'm sorry. I can figure no way that Konoha can be saved that doesn't ruin you; please forgive me."

The ANBU Captain nodded; he understood that. He would have certain conditions agreed to before he would carry out his mission, though.

The Hokage called in messengers and gave them the letters for delivery. Then he carefully wrote several on several other sheets, and finally with a sigh of sorrow lifted his head up and began to speak to Itachi again.

"Konoha is the largest of the Ninja villages. Do you know how many actual ninja we have? Yes, yes, it's an official military secret, but every one of our enemies has a very close idea of the number. It's not hard to work out. Every year the Academy turns out twenty or forty graduates, of which ten or twenty at most become Genin. The working life of a ninja is never more than thirty years on the average, so the size of our active forces can't really be much more than six hundred. Take into account casualties and early retirements, add in those from small villages that are allied with us, and that number is a good enough one.

"Of those, over half stay Genin for their entire career. Of the Chunin, at least two thirds never become Jonin. We have, counting you, fifty four Jonin. How many are Uchiha, Itachi?"

"Eight, I think."

"Nine, actually. I've had one on detached duty so long he's gone out of people's minds. Fifteen percent of our active Jonin are Uchiha, and my patriotic advisors are forcing me to eliminate them, the Chunin in the Military Police, four Genin, three children ready to graduate, and… too many other innocents.

"Are all those of the clan knowledgeable of the planned coup?"

Itachi shook his head in bitter amusement. "Of course not, there's no way a conspiracy with that many people could be kept quiet when everyone lives in the same village. The Jonin, some of the Chunin; I don't think anyone as low as a Genin would be told anything. They would be expected to follow the clan elder's instructions. I really can't imagine that when Father gives the word there won't be at least a few with less than total dedication. People are people, after all."

"So… the Jonin and the Chunin in the village then…" Sarutobi ordered, then continued with, "I will schedule the Genin to all be out on missions three nights from now. Can you do what you must in just one night?"

Itachi pondered, then replied: "If the rosters are set up properly, yes. But what about the rest of the Uchiha? How will you explain why they survive. And my brother must survive. That I will not budge on. Mother and Father lead the plot; Sasuke is innocent!"

"What Uchiha?" the Hokage said. "One day after the act is done there will be no Uchiha, except you." Then he passed a sheet to Itachi, and continued, "Write that in your own hand, and boldly!"

It was a short thing, and so suitable for a poster or notice:

I, Uchiha Itachi am the one, the only

Uchiha

No Others are worthy of the Name

Let no ninja use that name or they will die!

"I'm quite the madman," Itachi said, smiling.

The Hokage nodded. "After this I'm afraid that no other conclusion would be possible. This will be found posted at the entrance of the Uchiha Compound. We should at least make some use of your sad insanity. A packet of drugs will be discovered dissolved in some tea in your favorite cup at home; it will be an alternate explanation than that Uchiha all tend to go bad. Alas, you have jealous enemies who have drugged and betrayed you!

"To protect the remaining members of your clan we will dissolve it formally, and distribute the survivors into other families, making sure that the orphans are placed with caring families. I've learned that lesson, at least! My justification is that with your knowledge of the village's defenses it will provide safety for those who can't match the only remaining Uchiha Jonin.

"Finally, there is this," Sarutobi said, handing Itachi a slip of paper. It was a normal ANBU assassination order, with the name Shimura Danzo written on it as the objective. "It is sad when old acquaintances fall out, but Danzo and I have proven, in the end, to not be able to work together. How sad!" he finished. He saw Itachi had something to say, and nodded in encouragement.

"When you dissolve the clan, burn the Registry as well. Make sure that every that none of the innocent are condemned for my actions, or the coup… whatever! If you need to contact me, use one of your summonses at the new moon after each quarter of the year, putting the message near the stream ford by the Forest of Death stream exit from the walls. I'll know how to find it.

"If your Council was able to blackmail you in this, why do you think you can satisfy them with a half-measure?" Itachi asked.

The Hokage smiled a sad and cynical smile. "Without Danzo as an example they will have no leader in their folly. And whatever deals and promises he has made to get their support will become meaningless. If they threatened to reveal my youthful mistakes to bring shame on me… well, I thought of all the long years we were a team together, and do you know? My notes to them were reminders that they have their little points of vulnerability also. Danzo is the nail holding the whole thing together.

"The Founding Charter of Konoha offered protection and justice for loyalty. While I live, while I breathe, that will be my goal!"

Itachi bowed deeply and left the office. With only three days to arrange things he would be very busy.

Author's Notes:

Several reviewers have kindly pointed out that I have ascribed to Koharu actions that she never proposed, or would have wanted. This revision of "The Right Way, the Wrong Way, and the Hokage Way," was written to correct that injustice. A few other ideas also sneaked in, but that always happens in a re-write.