Prologue

“Hokage-sama, pardon me for asking, but what is this meeting for?” Nara Shikaku drawled, turning his head to meet the eyes of Sarutobi Hiruzen.

The older man smiled coyly, and Shikaku knew it was probably something he was better off not knowing. Sighing in annoyance, the Nara followed his esteemed leader into the chambers where the Fire Council gathered. The Hokage’s advisors and former teammates, Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura were already present, as was Shimura Danzō and the ANBU commander. They were seated on the right side of the table, across from the various advisors of the daimyō. The Fire daimyō was at the head of the table, across an empty seat, which Sarutobi took. Shikaku slipped into his designated seat quietly, as the Hokage began to speak.

“We last convened on the issue of budget allocation after the war with Kumogakure,” the Hokage began. “Today, I have called for this meeting for a simple reason. I wish for the Council’s support of my selection of successor.”

Everyone at the table looked surprised, even Danzō. The only person who could not be read was the ANBU, but that was due to his mask. Sarutobi hid a smirk, taking advantage of the shell shock. “Of course, we do not have such a candidate at current moment, bar my two wayward students. They are untraceable as of now, so that is not an option. However, I am willing to invest time and energy to leave a worthy legacy.”

“You wish to train a shinobi as your successor?” Shikaku inferred, having gotten over his shock quite well. He did expect something surprising to turn up, though nothing quite on the magnitude of this.

Hiruzen nodded firmly. “Hai, and I have a candidate in mind already. I merely wish to gain approval for my choice, and seek a spoken promise that he shall be elected either Godaime or Rokudaime Hokage at the end of my reign, depending on his age and level of ability.”

“Why the sudden decision, Hokage-sama?” Homura enquired, clearly curious as to his ex-teammate’s out-of-the-blue announcement.

“I am old and of declining health,” the Sandaime admitted wryly. “It is long overdue for the next generation to take up the mantle. Minato was the future, but his life was unfortunately curtailed by the arrival of the Kyūbi no Yōko. I cannot sit here and continue pretending to be as spry as I was years ago. I can govern for the next decade, but by that time, I wish to have a ninja ready to take up the post, instead of passively waiting for the day my reign ends.”

“It sounds like a marvelous idea,” the daimyō waved his fan before his face lazily. “Of course we wish no ill upon you, Hiruzen, but it is good to have a ready option for Hokage when you step down. May we know who this shinobi you wish to train is?”

“He is Uzumaki Naruto,” the wizened Hokage declared solemnly, to an explosion of protestations. Shikaku watched as the advisors and the Go-Ikenban clamoured to argue against the decision, Danzō was surprisingly silent, although Shikaku could tell that the man was plotting to twist the situation to his advantage. The daimyō seemed rather flummoxed by the situation, but Shikaku knew from experience the man would allow others to convince him, not the other way around.

As the protests faded, Sarutobi explained his bizarre choice. “The candidate I seek should be young, young enough for me to mould him into a fine shinobi wielding ideals that Konoha’s foundations were built upon. He should also possess great potential in the shinobi arts, and has great love and loyalty to Konohagakure. Naruto has all these qualities, particularly his love for Konoha. He has quite recently declared his intention to become Hokage, which I believe is a good starting point for any shinobi wishing to succeed me.”

“He is the Kyūbi jinchūriki, Hokage-sama!” an advisor exclaimed. “Please reconsider! I believe Uchiha Itachi has shown great prowess in the shinobi arts, and is as loyal as they come! Surely you can groom him to be your successor instead?”

“I have considered Itachi,” Sarutobi nodded. “However, Itachi is a member of the Uchiha clan, and I fear clan priorities might interfere with being Hokage. He is also designated heir, and such a decision could lead to major political ramifications and hostility from the other clans of Konoha.”

It was an unspoken fact that the clan the Sandaime was talking about was the Hyūga clan. The advisor who brought up Itachi’s name shrunk back into his seat, embarrassed by his polite putdown. The venerable Hokage smiled predatorily. “Please do not assume in my old folly, I have not considered all possible candidates. It was not a difficult decision by any means, but it is still a major one to make.”

“Are there any other reasons for his selection?” Koharu piped up. “Surely his dream of becoming Hokage is not the only factor in your choice?”

“As pointed out, he is the Kyūbi jinchūriki. Would it not make sense for me to teach him how to harness such a power, and cultivate great loyalty in him? To have such a powerful asset in our forces can only be a boon to Konoha,” the Sandaime stated, earning an interested gaze from the daimyō. “And what greater way for him to remain loyal than to groom him as Hokage? It is a beneficial arrangement for both Konoha and Naruto, who has unfairly suffered the fate of jinchūriki for being the Kyūbi’s prison.”

“But nothing indicates he will turn out to be a good shinobi,” another advisor opined dubiously. “He is six years old, I believe. While not doubting your eye for talent, in fairness, he has not even begun shinobi training.”

“Hai, but he is the container of the Kyūbi. And he definitely has potential, given his parents were Uzumaki Kushina and Namikaze Minato,” Sarutobi revealed, smiling broadly at the astonishment displayed by the Council. “One was a foremost ninjutsu and fūinjutsu expert hailing from former Uzushiogakure, and the other was the Yondaime Hokage, a genius of no equal. I have kept the information on Hiraishin safely aside, and Minato revealed to me that only his descendant can open the scroll when he is ready. Jiraiya and I have both checked the seals protecting the scroll, and we can attest that his words are gospel truth.”

“The son of Minato, with the power of Kyūbi and Hirashin no Jutsu,” the daimyō concluded, obviously pleased with Sarutobi’s choice. “It is decided then. He shall be the Godaime or Rokudaime Hokage when the time comes. An official document shall be written; it will make no sense to leave such an important matter to a worded promise.”

Sarutobi Hiruzen grinned triumphantly as the daimyō requested for an official scroll and brush to write it down on paper. With any luck, the news of Naruto’s parentage and his apprenticeship to the Hokage as his successor would spread through Konoha and change Naruto’s life for the better. And as a bonus, Konoha will have a Hokage ready made when I’m gone, he mused gleefully.

He will become a hero, Minato. I guarantee it.

<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>

Chapter 1

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