A Drop of Poison
Disclaimer : Naruto belongs to Kishimoto. Ramen belongs to Naruto. Enough said.
Naruto Uzumaki was not a person who punished harshly.
He'd had a harsh life, true, but he'd always looked for the bright side of things. Moaning about your problems never did anything about them, and brought you no closer to your goals. When possible he turned the other cheek, else he pranked.
This was how he was.
His harsh life however had brought one thing: he was very defensive of those he called friends. He had very few of those, and before their pain his was nothing.
So, knowing that, it can be said that the beating Naruto gave Mizuki, his old Taijutsu teacher, was entirely in proportion with the crime.
By Konoha law the man was guilty of treason, so no one would be angry at Mizuki's death, but Naruto stayed his hand, or hands in this case, and left the man alive. Beaten to a bloody pulp, true, but alive.
"Hehe… I went a little too far… Iruka ?"
He'd turned around to talk to the second man he could call a friend, after the Sandaime. The chūnin was unmoving, his head having fallen back sometime while the many Narutos were beating on Mizuki.
Naruto had not listened much to his lessons in first aid, but nevertheless remembered some. His favourite instructor's temperature was not normal, and his breathing was slow. It was visible something was wrong with him.
It took but a second for Naruto to call back his clones, though some had already left for his apartment as he'd instructed them do. They quickly gathered Iruka's body, making sure to step on Mizuki a few times along the way, and dashed from tree to tree holding his body aloft. Naruto could see the remaining clones gather Mizuki none to gently and follow him, but his mind was focused on getting Iruka to the hospital as soon as possible.
When Naruto arrived to the hospital the Hokage was already there, reinforcing Naruto's ingrained knowledge that the Sandaime always knew everything just has it happened and just let him do his pranks out of pleasure for the results.
He was actually proud that his own technique had managed to knock the old man down for once. He'd normally be bragging about it by now, but he had more important things to do.
Two medical ninja stepped from behind the town leader as soon as the clones holding Iruka touched the ground, gathered the chūnin and brought him inside on a stretcher. Two of those weird masked ninja did the same with Mizuki's body, though these didn't bother with a stretcher. The one behind the crow mask even covered a snort when one of his clones gave him a last kick right between the legs, and Naruto counted every emotion he'd get from those people as a victory. They'd been checking him in his apartment for years, and they always seem like moving stone statues for all feelings they showed.
The Hokage stepped forward then, as the two masked ones were bouncing from roof to roof, and stopped a few meters in front of the mass of clones.
"You don't think I need the protection of so many ninjas, do you ?"
Many ninjas… Oh, he meant his clones. With a single seal and a thought they all disappeared in various puffs of smoke, and the satisfaction he felt from having gotten one last kick at Mizuki redoubled in his mind.
"Good. I see you managed to make good use of your time with this scroll. May I take it back ?"
Naruto sheepishly handed the scroll back, having completely forgotten the fact that he'd stolen it from the very same man hours earlier. The Sandaime quickly looked at it, probably to verify it was what it was supposed to be, then held it under his shoulder.
"Will Iruka be all right, old man ?" he couldn't help himself but ask.
"I'm sure he will be. In one or two days he'll probably come see you again." The Sandaime did that weird thing where he looked directly at the Hokage monument as if he was thinking of someone. Nah, probably just liked looking at his own face. "It's late and I'll probably have twice as much paperwork waiting for me when I get back. I think we're both better off returning home, aren't we ?"
Naruto nodded. He skipped dinner getting that scroll, and a good dose of ramen was exactly what he needed.
"Good night, then." The old man then that vanishing-leaf-ninja trick he always did, and Naruto bounced from roof to roof towards home and ramen.
The smell of ramen hit his nose before he was even home. He cleared the few remaining meters at a run and entered his apartment to find a dozen copies of himself around his table, on his bed, on the ground and even one on his kitchen counter. And they were all eating ramen.
"You no good bastards, you better have left some for me, or I'm bursting you all and taking all that ramen for myself!"
The clones, knowing Naruto as much as they did themselves, had evidently foreseen this particular possibility, as another hot cup of ramen was waiting by for him on the kitchen counter. He wasted no time gulping down a good portion of the still slightly-crunchy noodles, savouring the taste of his favourite food.
By the third bite, however, he realized something. Some of his clones were different than the others, having a large scroll on their back like he'd worn the scroll of forbidden seals earlier in the day.
Oh yeah ! He'd forgotten because of the whole beatdown on Mizuki thing and the rush to the hospital, but he'd made four or so clones while first escaping his former taijutsu teacher. Those here with the scroll must be the same he'd made then, who'd come back here like the others.
Wait a minute…
Naruto drained the rest of his noodles in one great gulp, and walked with determination towards one of these clones, who was still savouring his own ramen. Unlatching the scroll, he quickly examined it. The kage bunshin directions were still there, and yes ! Another technique afterwards !
If a single technique from that scroll could make him able to beat down a chūnin, imagine how much closer to Hokage he'd be with a dozen. Or maybe even more !
Looking back at the clones still eating ramen, he realized he had no clue how long they'd last. Better off copying the techniques on other scrolls first. He probably didn't have time to train in a dozen before they'd disappeared, anyway.
Dashing to his room, he came back holding on every single empty scroll he owned. It was quite a few. He'd never have thought that not doing his homework could be so useful. It left him with plenty of spare scrolls to write on, though.
He'd barely started writing when the sound of slurping noodles behind him clued him to a much better and faster way of doing this.
"Hey you guys, stop eating !"
A few of his clones did stop, though the majority kept on. One even gave him the finger. He resisted the urge to burst that one, but held back as it was one with a scroll.
"I'm bursting the first one who hasn't finished his ramen in ten seconds."
The sounds of slurping noodles were a balm to Naruto's ears, and before long all clones were looking at him expectantly. It was good to be listened to.
"Okay ! You and you." He said, pointing to the clone he'd taken the scroll from, and another clone, this one without a scroll."You're with me. The others in teams of three, with one scroll per team. The one remaining," Naruto looked down at his pile of blank scrolls, then at the forbidden seals scroll. Nope, probably not enough scrolls to copy down everything. "You go buy some more scrolls and markers. Oh, and some more ramen while you're at it." He tossed his purse at that one, who was already out the door.
"Now, everyone call out the technique he's copying, since we don't need any duplicates. I've already started with Shiki Fūjin, so I'm taking that one. The rest of you, go !"
The sun was rising in the eastern sky when the Naruto squad finished copying down the contents of the forbidden scroll. They worked all night, but Naruto wasn't really feeling tired. Probably because of all the ramen he'd just eaten.
He'd been right to send a clone out to purchase stuff, as without that they'd have run out of scrolls before even hitting the second quarter of the forbidden seals, and would have run out of ramen not much later. And they'd at least needed a second marker each, too.
Now that the copying was done, each Naruto was catching up on some others things. Unsurprisingly, from half of them, that meant ramen. Two others were sleeping, three were down on the scrolls, examining them and comparing them to the original, and one even decided to take a bath. Surprisingly, they all lasted up until now with no need to recreate any of them. Naruto was still wondering when they'd burst by themselves.
He himself was rereading about the kage bunshin on the copy he'd made earlier. He'd mostly made it for completion's sake, but realized up by rereading that he'd barely glanced at half the scroll while training in the forest. Most of what he'd ignored was under the headings 'Dangers' and 'Reasons of Being Forbidden'.
As such, he found himself struggling to understand the following passage:
'Else the danger of severe chakra depletion due to the technique's inerrant division process, the other danger is a form of psychic damage due to the return of a clone's secondary consciousness to the primary one, a form of mental overload due to excess information. As such, it is not recommended to use this technique for upwards of a dozen clones, due to the possibility of multiple memories returning simultaneously, harming the user's psyche and possibly causing personality disorders.'
He did understand the last phrase, but made no sense of it. He'd burst a hundred or so clones in front of the hospital yesterday, and felt no adverse effect. But he didn't remember anything about memories returning or anything of that essence.
He brought the matter to the three clones now nearly done with their verification, and as a group decided on a simple way of testing this effect.
One of the copies grabbed Naruto's dictionary (whose normal use was propping up the kitchen table), opened it at a random page, looked at the first word he'd found there, then dropped the book on his foot, bursting himself.
"Incendiary." All the clones chorused in a single voice. One of them even verified and yes, that word the first word on a page near the middle of the book, which was then put back to his original use.
Naruto now even remembered coming up with the idea and looking in the book, even though it was the clone that'd done such things. Damn, that was one powerful technique.
The Naruto copy who'd decided to take a bath choose that particular time to come out, and noted "Shouldn't you be going to the academy around this time ?", with his hair dripping all over the dirty clothing that made most of Naruto's carpet.
Half of the Narutos in the room shot up at that statement, though only the real Naruto didn't go back to what he was doing. He dashed around, gathering the ninja equipment he'd carelessly dropped all over the place, and shot through the window, his usual shortcut for when he was late somewhere.
Mizuki said he'd pass with one technique, so he couldn't wait to show it at the academy.
He couldn't wait to get his hands on his own hitai-ate ! Man, today was gonna be the best !