Confusion. What in the hell had happened? How in the hell had . . . whatever happened happened? A century's worth of aches were gone as was a decade old headache. Well, whatever else happened he wasn't going to complain about that part.
Rising from his bed, he found himself in an apartment he only vaguely recalled and the thought that immediately came to mind was; what now? If he were eighty years younger, he'd do his best to save the day through a combination of hard work and making friends. If he were sixty years younger, he'd take control of the village and do his best to prepare it for what was coming and save it from itself. As it was? Bugger 'em, he was retired, the ungrateful bastards could rot for all he cared.
A new problem arrived on the heels of that decision; he was the village's poorly kept secret weapon, they weren't going to just let him go. He looked down at his hands. Soft. He had the skills but lacked the conditioning to walk out the front; best show a bit of guile. After all, who would bother looking for something they knew wasn't missing.
Even with the massive use of clones, it still took two days before he was satisfied that the system would be self sustaining. That done, he quietly slipped out of the village, visions of warm tropical beaches and retirement dancing in his head.
To say that Kakashi was not happy would be to make a gigantic understatement. On paper, he was the leader of a team consisting of three genin. In fact, only two of his newly minted subordinates had bothered to show up for the previous two days which limited both the amount of training he could do and the types of missions he could take.
"Naruto!" he bellowed, spotting his wayward lamb and freezing him with his glare.
"Oh, um, hey . . ." The boy scratched his chin, looking remarkably unaffected by his teacher's bad mood. "Sorry. Uh, what was your name again?"
"Is there some reason you haven't shown up to any of the last two days of team meetings?" he asked icily.
Naruto's eyes lit up, now he remembered who the one eyed stranger was. Under the circumstances, there really was only one thing he could say. "Sorry, I guess I got lost on the road of life."
Naruto took a moment to take in the scene. Seemed to be the standard helpless villagers being menaced by bandits or pirates or pirates or revolutionaries or government goons or whatever. In other words it was none of his business and unlikely to be profitable enough to be worth his time.
"Who's in charge here?" he asked cheerfully, hoping someone on one side or the other could be of some assistance.
"I am," the short piggy looking man at the head of the third rate goons stated with what Naruto assumed was supposed to be arrogant confidence.
"Who owns that boat over there?" Naruto asked, waving at the massive craft moored in the harbor.
"I do," the same short, fat, oddly familiar now that he got a better look at him, man replied.
"Great! I'm gonna need to borrow it for a couple days," Naruto said with an idiotic looking grin. "I'll try to have it back to you by the end of the week. No promises though."
Everyone stared at the obviously mentally unhinged boy for a few moments until the silence was broken by Gato's loud, hog like, guffaws.
"Break his arms and legs and toss him in the bay," the fat businessman ordered, a jolly grin lighting his face, best entertainment he'd had all month. With one last head shake, the man turned back to the crowd of locals. "Now where were we? Oh yes, I was just explaining that-"
When asked about the incident later in life, Inari would always maintain that the thing that always stuck out in his mind, even more so than the split second of ultra violence that preceded it, was how long the body remained standing after the would be tyrant's head had been removed.
"Sorry," the now terrifying figure said, his grin no longer looking idiotic. "I must have misheard. Who did he say that boat belonged to again?"
"Y-you," Tazuna stammered, pupils shrunk to pin pricks, heart pounding, and hoping fervently that the terrifying boy didn't decide that it wasn't in his best interests to leave witnesses.
"Great!" Naruto gave the man a big thumbs up. "Who's in charge of this island?"
"You are," Tazuna said quickly, knowing in his bones that giving any other answer would lead the end of his family line.
"No, really. Like I said, I'm not planning to stick around and I'd like to cut a deal for an ongoing supply contract with whomever the local big shot is before I go," Naruto assured the man. "So who is it?"
The villagers glanced at each other.
"Come on, it's gotta be one of you," Naruto cajoled. "I promise not to do anything bad to them so long as they aren't stupid enough to annoy me."
No answer was forthcoming. It took nearly two hours for the, by that point, nearly catatonic villager to convince Naruto that there really was no one that held a leadership position more important than fishing boat captain.
"Damn it. This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to avoid," Naruto muttered to himself. Well, it wasn't like he couldn't just set up a similar system to the one he had in back in his home village. Might even help muddy the water a bit if they ever got wise and got it in their heads to go looking for him.
Kakashi arrived at the meeting site an uncharacteristic five minutes early with his prisoner in tow, only to be confronted by the fact that his team appeared to have grown by an additional two members as two more Narutos were being carefully guarded by his other two subordinates
"Which one of you is the real Naruto?" he demanded, mind working to invent a punishment bad enough to convey just how annoyed he was.
"I am!" the three said as one. "No! I am!" The three glared at each other. "You take that back!"
"I'll prove it!" the Naruto in Kakashi's hands said loudly. In a flash, the boy drew a kunai and pricked his left index finger – dispelling himself with a pop.
"Ha!" Sakura's Naruto laughed. "Told you I was the real one!"
"You take that back!" Sasuke's Naruto growled.
"Make me!" Sakura's Naruto growled back. Before their confused teammates could react, the two Narutos drew kunai and were on each other, each intent on stabbing the other to prove that he was the real one.
Unsurprisingly, neither was and the only leads team Kakashi had to the location of their missing teammate went up in smoke before their eyes.
Kakashi pinched the bridge of his nose and slowly counted to ten. "See if you can find another one and bring it here. Be sure not to let it dispel itself this time."
"What if we find the real one, sensei?" Sakura asked.
"Protect him from the clones," Kakashi replied. He didn't even want to contemplate the mental issues his wayward student must have to have created this sort of problem.
It took more time than Naruto would have liked to get things set up in Wave so it would require a minimal amount of future attention but, he figured it was best to set things up right in the first place than to have a mess dropped in his lap at some future date.
"Head north till we're out of sight, then west for a day, then zig zag to our final location."
"Aye, captain!" the helms-clone agreed. "Shall we drop a few of the crew off to watch our back passage."
"Aye, sir!" the transformed parrot on the helms-clone agreed.
Neither Sakura nor Sasuke were in any mood to put up with their teammate's usual shenanigans. Six hours. It had taken them six hours to find and corral a clone to take back to their instructor. Six hours of chasing clones that did not wish to be caught and were more than willing to lead them through parts of town so seedy their continued existence should not be permitted. Six hours of being dumped into offal piles at slaughter houses. Six hours of trudging through sewers. Six hours in which they'd built up a rather large account that would be settled with their teammate the minute they were sure which one he was.
"Be happy you're a clone," Sakura hissed, a bit of cow brain dripping out of her hair. "Because the things I'm planning to do to the original you would make T&I sick."
"I am the real me, Sakura-chan."
"Do you know what raw sewage does to shoes?" She continued. "You had better pray to all that's holy the smell comes out of our hair."
"What?" Sasuke blurted. He hadn't considered that. While not nearly as vain about it as the Hyuuga, it was a poorly kept secret how proud the Uchiha clan was in their raven locks.
"I'll prove that I'm the real Naruto," their prisoner said loudly. "Watch." In a poof, ten more clones appeared. "Could a clone do that?"
Taking it as a challenge, one of the clones summoned another ten.
"Yes," Sakura said, growing more and more frustrated by the situation. Oh he would pay, she'd return everything he did a hundred fold. His suffering would be the stuff of legends, cautionary tales told by future generations in whispered voices on exactly what a kunoichi was capable of when pushed passed the breaking point.
"Oh." Their prisoner seemed to consider the matter. "Well, I'm still the real Naruto."
"You hear that!" a familiar voice called out from the rooftops. "Sounds like one of my clones must have come out defective."
"That's my line!" their prisoner yelled back. "Bring it!"
The two genin were engulfed by a wave of orange as Narutos seemed to appear from all directions. They descended from rooftops, boiled out of manhole covers, exited shops, and she would later swear that she even saw one pull itself out of a mailbox several sizes too small to fit it.
The chaotic mass of orange was impossible to describe, so much so that both of the genin used the exact phrase in their mission reports. Alliances shifted in the blink of an eye as clone fought clone, no quarter asked or granted as the smoke from the dispelled clones filled the streets lowering visibility to just past the tip of a nose.
"I think it's stopping," Sakura ventured as the sounds of combat died down. Look, there are only two of them left. An idle part of Sakura's mind wondered where Naruto had found such a fearsome looking sword. The rest of it was gibbering in terror at the thought of Naruto, of all people, in possession of such a fearsome looking sword.
"There can be only one!" Naruto intoned as he raised his sword to behead the kneeling Naruto.
Satoshi had been a chunin for three years and a gate guard for two in a half since he realized what a sweet gig it was. Sure, in theory, he was there to be a human trip wire, to alert the village of a coming danger with his messy death at the hands of an S-rank enemy. In practice, that sort of thing never happened.
"What do you mean we can't just leave?" the spokesman of the group of one hundred Narutos confronting him demanded.
Which didn't mean there weren't annoyances of course, no job was all good.
"Exactly what it sounded like," Satoshi replied blandly. "Ninja may not leave the village without authorization from the Hokage or as part of an approved mission."
In a flash, one of the clones turned into a surprisingly good copy of his older sister.
"Is that supposed to be a threat?" he asked blandly.
"No," another replied, turning into a copy of him. "This is."
"Oh brother, we must not, we're siblings. What will the neighbors say when they see pictures of us in mid coitus?
"They'll say that I must have forced you into it since that's what the police will say," the clone resembling him assured her.
"Someone call for us?" two clones transformed to look like police asked.
"You're all clones right?" Satoshi asked. "Cause the rules are kinda iffy on if clones can leave without permission."
"For the sake of this argument; sure, we're clones," the spokesman agreed.
"I . . . I am going to close my eyes and count to one hundred," Satoshi said calmly. "No one had better go through this open gate while I'm doing it. One . . . two . . . three . . ."
The Hokage has thought he'd seen it all in the decades since he'd taken his position. Wars, demon foxes, betrayals, bored Uzumaki, horrors unseen by any of the current generation. He'd thought he'd seen it all, that there was no problem he had not faced before. He was pleasantly surprised to find that he was wrong. The fact that there were still unknown problems in the world meant that there were still unknown challenges to face. It was almost refreshing.
"That's the story, Hokage-sama," Kakashi finished, his eye on the Naruto he and the rest of the team had managed to get to the tower before its fellows could pop it.
"Let's leave aside the issue of who the real Naruto is for the time being," Sarutobi stated. "I know which one he is and the real Naruto knows which one he is and that's all that matters for now." He gave the probable clone on the other side of the desk a knowing wink.
"Sure." The probable clone facing him and, worryingly, two of his guards, a potted plant, and his hat winked back.
"Moving along. We've found several seals scattered around the village that seemingly, for lack of a better term, re-spawn popped clones." Several of his most qualified researchers had been excitedly studying them since discovery. "Were you the one that made those seals, Naruto?
"Sure was," the probable clone replied proudly.
"It has also come to our attention that several clones have been witnessed placing seals on themselves to increase their durability, speed, and other attributes."
"Anything to be a better ninja!" the likely clone explained.
"How did you make those seals, Naruto?"
Every non-Naruto in the room held their breath as the almost certain clone opened his mouth to speak, each straining to hear, focusing all their attention on what they hoped would be the identity of a target they could wreak vengeance upon.
"Well, it all started when I learned that the Uzumaki clan were awesome at seals," the boy said proudly.
"So you've been studying on your own?" Sarutobi asked. It was possible his successor/predecessor and/or his wife had left some sort of blood-locked repository for their son.
"Nah," he laughed. "Like I said, I'm an Uzumaki."
"Yes. Go on." He had a very bad feeling about this.
"And Uzumaki were awesome at seals," Naruto continued.
"So?" The feeling had just gotten much worse. Perhaps it was time to think about a quick trip to the capital to consult with the Daimyo.
"So I must be awesome at seals," Naruto finished proudly. "It all clicked when I figured that out."
"I see." Or perhaps an extended trip to the land of wind to meet with their closest ally? "What did your instructor say when you asked him about the matter?"
"Well . . . on the day I was going to, he showed up three hours late and then told me that he had more important things to do than to explain things to me that were way above my level. Then he told us what mission we were doing that day and read porn while we did it. Uh, porn being the thing more important than teaching me."
"I see." Three of the old man's guards nearly lost bladder control after getting a glimpse of the old man's expression. "Sakura, Sasuke, is this true?"
"Um . . . it might be," the pink haired girl said nervously. "I don't remember that particular incident, but it sounds like the sort of thing that sensei would do."
"I see." The old man thought the matter over for a few moments. "Kakashi. You do of course know that a teacher is responsible for the actions of their students."
Twenty minutes later, Inoichi brushed past a sick looking Kakashi as the other man stumbled out of the Hokage's office trailed by at least two of his students. It was quite evident that the man knew that he was well and truly boned. Though, in his defense, who could predict that ignoring your students could backfire in such a truly spectacular fashion?
"You've finished your initial evaluation?" the Hokage asked.
"I have," Inoichi replied. "Myself and several clan members have conducted a series of tests on several clones and have come to some rather disturbing conclusions."
"How did you aquire the clones?"
"Six were captured by placing bowls of ramen under a box trap, seven were purchased from the committee for the promotion of miso, four were purchased from the committee for the promotion of shio, and one was found posing as one of my researchers." Thanks only to the fact that the clone had had the poor sense to wear an orange lab-coat, other than that he had managed to perfectly duplicate everything about the woman down to a scar on her left heel.
"The committees for the promotion of miso and shio?" the Hokage asked dryly.
"Several groups of clones have banded together to declare that their favorite kinds of ramen are superior to all others. Any clones unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of a rival faction are tried, and, when found guilty executed by guillotine."
"They set one up in the village square and have been surprisingly good about sharing it. Incidentally, if you were wondering where Anko and Ibiki are, it's probably best not to."
"Leaving all that aside, what are your conclusions on Naruto's mental state?"
"They aren't good. Normal people are usually reluctant to kill their clones and normal clones don't think they're real people."
"In short, in or professional opinions, Naruto is batshit crazy."
AN: This fic was fueled by moonshine, which tastes different if you know it's been taxed.
Omake: The Prince of Orange
"I got something so good I wanted to see your reaction to it," Jiraiya stated.
"You know that new village, sound?"
"What of it?"
"It was founded and being controlled by Orochimaru," Jiraiya stated.
"Wha-how did we miss that?"
"He was better at hiding than we were at seeking I guess," Jiraiya stated.
"Made the mistake of crossing someone better than he was."
"You've confirmed this?"
"Even stopped to visit the princess and have her do a quick check," Jiraiya agreed. "Which reminds me, I'm going to have to get the price of three S-rank missions from the slush fund."
"It's what it cost to buy her debt."
"Who did it?"
"New player. Calls himself 'The Prince of Orange,' has a whole army of masked identical soldiers."