It was early the next morning when Kakashi woke up; cramped, stiff and with a pounding headache; on the floor of the mission assignment room. No one had had the heart to wake the exhausted jounin the day before and had just worked around him. Now, however he as feeling it as his muscles strained in protest. Thanking the chunin who had awoken him on opening the mission room, Kakashi headed to his apartment for supplies before setting off for the main gate. For some reason he was on the receiving end of a slap, courtesy of old Mrs. Yukimo, his neighbour. Strange, he'd thought they got on quite well, she always made him cookies on Yondaime Day and everything. Another mystery for another time.
Kakashi arrived at the gates with several hours to spare… well actually he'd arrived on time for once, but compared to his usual 'tardiness' habit he was very early indeed. Ta-something, the client whatever his name was, was already there and already halfway through a gourd of sake, Sasuke was off to one side, staring at the other two genin of the group. Sakura was… she was attacking Naruto… again, and predictably Naruto was ru - no, waddling away at a surprisingly decent speed, given how his stomach appeared to be distended far enough out to touch his knees.
All of a sudden the blonde was behind him and yelling. Why was he always yelling? His poor head. "Kakashi sensei! Help! She's trying to kill my ramen-baby!"
3 hours later
The group had, at long last set off. For three of them this would be their first time out of Konoha and the furthest they had ever gone from their home. Sakura's rage had abated somewhat, Naruto's body had returned to whatever passed for normality for someone with metal flesh, Sasuke was outwardly as stoic as ever but a small smirk would occasionally creep through his mask of emotionlessness (I checked it out, that's actually a word! English is an awesome language:P), Tazuna had reached the point of inebriation where all things have become highly amusing, and Kakashi was in serious danger of overdosing on headache tablets. It was for this reason that he almost didn't see the trap before they were right on top of it. It was the Uchiha that tipped him off to it really, as the boy sullenly scuffed the dry road with his sandals, sending up small dust clouds with each step right next to a puddle of water. He had the briefest of moments to formulate a half-assed plan, which went something along the lines of; 'Ninja, suiton, this close to Konoha? Ambush? For us? Coincidence? Unlikely. After who? Naruto? It's supposed to be a secret. Sasuke? The sharingan? Prepare kawarimi, see who this guy goes after.'
Naruto was far from the usual bubble of joy and unguided energy. Turns out he wasn't pregnant with Ichiraku ramen, Sakura still ignored him in favour of the emotionless bishounen on their team and what was supposed to be their first awesome mission outside of the village was a complete gip, guarding a drunk, old civil engineer of all things. He was almost at the point of brooding, but fortunately was careful enough not to cross over that line from which there is no return. Then Kakashi-sensei got killed by a puddle. Wait… what?
Two ninja in tattered black cloaks and each wielding a single clawed gauntlet, connected to each other with a spiked chain, emerged from the puddle they had just passed on the road and in barely a few seconds, bisected Kakashi with the chain. "One down," came the gravelly voice from the one on the right as both turned, showing their identical rebreather-covered faces and slashed headbands. As one they charged. Naruto, in a blind panic used the first jutsu that came to mind. He melted into a metallic puddle.
The two attacking ninja halted in their tracks, their eyes, the only visible parts of their faces, widened. The left one growled; "He stole our jutsu."
"He is a student of The Copycat."
The sudden break in their charged allowed Sasuke to pull himself together enough to counterattack. A quick shower of shuriken forced the pair to dodge back and block with their gauntlets, which gave the Uchiha enough distance to hit their chain with a shuriken/kunai combo, effectively nailing it to a tree. The boy smirked briefly before the two detached their claws from the chain and came at him separately.
Naruto, meanwhile had not been idle. After hearing their brief exchange an idea had sparked in his head, one that simply would not leave. As the two prepared to rush Sasuke, an identical pair of ninja, made entirely of metal, and still connected by a spiked chain, erupted from the metal pool on the ground and countered the pair's attacks.
Tazuna could only stare on in horror from behind his diminutive, pink-haired bodyguard as the most bizarre fight he had ever seen took place before his very eyes.
The two ninja were getting more and more freaked out by the metal kid(s?) as all of their attacks got turned against themselves and the dark-haired kid had started putting up a half-decent fight as well. Eventually the left one barrelled through his metal double and turned his eyes on the old man and his pink-haired guardian. "Cover me, I'll take him out and we'll get out of here." He shouted back at his partner. He got two steps forward at most before an arm appeared out of nowhere and clotheslined his neck, knocking him out with almost no effort whatsoever.
"Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura called out, for that is who had appeared, both of their assailants out cold under his arms. "I… I thought… They killed…"
Kakashi adjusted the two dead-weights onto one shoulder so that he could pat the girl reassuringly on the head. "Ne… sorry for scaring you Sakura-chan, but there was something I wanted to check." The cycloptic jounin dumped the two bodies against the base of a tree and began tying them up. "You see it is a bit unusual to find missing-nin so close to a shin obi village, especially one as large and powerful as Konoha. It means that these two, The Demon Brothers of the Mist if I'm not much mistaken, must have been after something or someone, so I replaced myself and hid to watch and see who they went after." At this point he turned a level glare at Tazuna. "We'll get to that in a minute, however before that there is one thing I have to say."
He turned to the two boys, who were looking rather smugly at the two tied-up ninja. "Naruto…" the boy looked up at him, "I think I can guess the answer myself but I'd just like to ask you to make one thing clear to me. What in the holy hell was that all about?"
Said blonde looked up at him sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Hehehe… well you see they got kinda freaked out when I did the puddle thing and they said something about copycats so I thought if copying their jutsu, even if I totally didn't and came up with it on my own… gonna have to figure out a way to copyright jutsu or something later… but I thought if I copied them that'd freak them out even more!"
Kakashi nodded "Good thinking but inherently flawed. Your enemies have had a lot of practice being themselves, they have their own styles and will most likely have worked extremely hard to perfect those styles, especially if they have unique weapons like you just saw there. Imitating people just from their looks may throw them off balance momentarily but without the ability to actually copy their style of fighting you are hampering yourself by using an unfamiliar weapon. Those two will have practiced fighting, not only with their claws but working in tandem for years to get to their level of proficiency, even with your clone I'm surprised you cooperated as well as you did."
Naruto scrunched his face up in thought and confusion before asking "What clone Kakashi-sensei?"
The jounin sighed "The other you on the end of the chain that wielded the opposite claw."
"But, sensei that was me as well, so long as I keep connected don't need to make a clone, watch!" With that, Naruto morphed back into the metallic copies of the Demon Brothers, both connected by the gauntlet chain. After a second Naruto's head appeared, warping itself into being out of the top of the chain. "See Kakashi sensei, it's all just me." As he said this, the Naruto head began to move up and down the chain, from one body to the other, then turning and doing rotations around the chain itself. "Oooooh… spinny."
Kakashi looked away from the spectacle and commented "That is one of the more disturbing things I have ever seen. Anyway, Sasuke, I also wanted to say well done to you, with Naruto's help you managed to hold off a pair of Chunin-rated missing-nin, very impressive for a genin." He ignored the sounds Naruto was making behind him as the metal boy increased the speed of his rotations.
"Now, Tazuna, I believe you have some explaining to do." Kakashi turned back to the rapidly paling drunk.
Later, after the whole story had come out, the team had decided to carry on with the mission and Naruto had gotten so dizzy doing his 'roving head' trick that he'd thrown up, the team finally made their way to the shoreline that marked the edge of Fire country. There, waiting for them at the end of a short dock, was a friend of Tazuna's in a tiny rowboat with a small outboard motor attached to the back. That was when they hit a problem.
"No way am I getting in that thing."
"Shh… We'll be heard!" The boatman tried to calm the rapidly angering, and loudening (also an actual word, I'n not making this shit up!) kunoichi down.
"Fine. Naruto!" Sakura continued in a stage whisper, not much quieter than her earlier yell.
"No! Look at it! That thing's about to fall apart at the seams. In case you hadn't noticed I weigh quite a bit more than your average awesome ninja and I'm not spending another afternoon stuck at the bottom of a scummy mass of water! This mission has been one let-down after another from the start and this is the final bloody straw!"
"Naruto." Kakashi decided to intervene. "There's nothing that can be done and this is the only way we can get where our client needs to go. It's not like we can fix up this man's boat…"
"Correction, sensei, you can't, I can." Naruto interrupted.
"Fine, if we let you fix up the boat, will you please let us get on with the mission?"
Naruto looked to the others to check that they were happy for him to continue as well. Sasuke was looking off into space, Sakura was grinding her teeth at him, Tazuna was looking a little confused and sort of pleadingly at him, whilst the boatman was just looking confused. Naruto sighed. "Okay." He crouched down and touched the rim of the boat. A dull sheen of metal began to spread from the point of contact until it completely covered the vessel. Nodding to himself, Naruto gingerly stepped down into the boat. He got an approving nod from the boat's owner and the rest of the team gingerly stepped down onto the fresh, new deck.
"Happy now, Naruto?" Kakashi asked. "Can we get going?"
"One second, Kakashi-sensei." Naruto replied, before announcing to no-one in particular; "Up periscope!"
Amazingly a periscope flowed up smoothly from a hatch in the deck that hadn't been there a second before. Everyone stared wide-eyed as Naruto folded down two handles and proceeded to look into the eyepiece for a few seconds, turning this way and that, before he pulled away, nodding to himself and ordered "Down periscope!" The tube retreated back into the deck of the boat, but before anyone could ask what he thought he was doing, he crouched down and tugged at a handle that emerged by his feet. A trap-door opened to reveal, not the seawater beneath them, but a set of steps on a harsh incline. Naruto stood up once more and looked to the shocked faces of those around him.
"After you." He announced cheerfully