"YOU'VE GOTTA BE KIDDING!"

"No, I'm not," came the calm reply.

"BUT I WAS MEANT TO BE THE HOKAGE! YOU PROMISED!"

Tsunade-sama glared back.

"Are you ready to pay the price of a Hokage? Are you ready to sacrifice everything you love so that you can protect the village?"

Naruto's thoughts were franitcally churning, mushing into hundreds of lumps. He hadn't thought Old Lady Tsunade would take him seriously.

"Yes," Naruto replied mullishly, "but I won't give up on Sasuke. He's my friend."

"How can you say that? Naruto, I know you are determined, but after all he has done. Think again. He did not care if his own TEAM mates die. He does not and will not care when weaker people are hurt. All he can think about is revenge. About how others have hurt him. Never has he truly considered, whether HE is the one hurting others, whether HE is the reason why he is never content. He is the only reason why he is not at peace.

Look, Naruto, I believe in you. I believe you are strong. But you are not strong enough to be Hokage. Do you know how much trouble you have caused this village over Sasuke? Do you know how many people have died because of him? How can you put the value of tens and thousands over this empty husk of a soul called Uchiha Sasuke?"

"Yeah, but old granny, I have something you don't. Something that'll make me a better hokage than you ever will be."

"Oh?"

"I believe in my friends. I trust my friends. I can not and will never give up, even if I have to go to the ends of the earth. Even if Sasuke has to kill me a thousand times over, each time more painful than the other. Because..."

"Because?"

... Thats my way of the ninja."

"..."

"..."

"..."

Tsunade sighed in defeat.

"I'd had forgotten that part of you Naruto. There's something about you that seems to inspire hope in the darkest moments...

...Very well, I'll get you an S-rank mission."

"S-rank? Yes!" Naruto punched the air, all other thoughts, Hokage or Sasuke related disappearing.

"It will be your mission to protect-"

"Hokage-sama!" Came a breathless Shizune.

"Urgent matter! Sakura is missing."

Tsunade and Naruto gave Shizune an odd stare.

"Hokage-sama!" Shizune cried insistently.

"Yeah yeah, now that will be all Shizune!"

Shizune rushed out, determined to call the ABNU regardless.

There was a slight pause.

"Naruto?"

"Yeah Granny?"

"Kill him or die trying."

The silence grew louder.

"This is your last chance Naruto. I cannot let him hurt our village any longer. And this time, you won't be getting backup. You're going to settle this once and for all."

Naruto gave the Godaime silent treatment for five seconds.

"No." came the defensive reply.

"NO?" Tsunade-sama roared.

"No. I won't kill him. He can kill me but I will not kill him."

"NARUTO YOU IDIOT!"

"No. Hokage-sama, stay out of this. I'm going after Sasuke, but it won't be because of your orders. I'm going to submerge his darkness so he will see light again. And you're wrong Hokage-sama. I AM willing to sacrifice myself for the village. For Sasuke. Just like my father." Naruto strode out of the door and disappeared into the night.

"..."

"Naruto," Tsunade whispered into the night.

"Forgive me."

A tiny glistening tear slid onto the ground.

"My hope is in you, child. You are indeed a light in the darkness. Find peace Naruto."