A/N: This work was inspired by a Naruto-themed omake chapter in “Harry Potterand the Methods of Rationality” by Eliezer Yudkowsky/Less Wrong. If you areunaware of HPMOR, I highly recommend giving it a try irrespective of yourknowledge of/attitude towards the Harry Potter books.
“There you are, Naruto.”
Mizuki-sensei, ever the poser, looked down at him from a high tree branch atthe other end of the forest clearing.
“I see you’ve got the scroll. Good work. Now just hand it over to me, and wecan talk about your graduation.”
Naruto grinned. “Sure. I was just about done with it anyway.”
Mizuki suppressed a sneer. The brat had obviously worked hard - the fact thatvirtually every last inch of the large clearing was littered with shuriken,kunai, scrolls and other training paraphernalia was testament to that - butthe odds of that dropout mastering even the simplest forbidden technique werepretty damn low.
“Don’t do it, Naruto!” Iruka shouted, bursting in from outside Mizuki’s lineof sight. Mizuki silently cursed his invariably rotten luck.
“What?!” Naruto exclaimed innocently. “But I’ve just finished that secretsecond way of graduating Mizuki-sensei told me about. What am I supposed to dowith the scroll now, keep it?”
“Second way of graduating?!” Iruka’s eyes, now wide, flickered to Mizuki, thenback to Naruto. “Mizuki’s been lying to you. There’s no such thing. No loyalshinobi would ever ask you to steal from the Hokage. No matter what you do,don’t give him the scroll!”
Mizuki started to reach for the enormous Fūma Shuriken strapped to his back.Before he could touch it, however, a fourth figure burst out of the bushesnear Iruka.
“Mizuki, you get the scroll! I’ll go signal our allies!” the man in a Chūninjacket shouted before sprinting away.
“Quick, Iruka-sensei, you’ve got to catch him!” Naruto shouted. “Go! I’ll keepthe scroll away from Mizuki-sensei!”
But Iruka didn’t move. “You’re my student, Naruto, and I can’t leave you indanger.”
“Please just go! I can buy some time here - you know how hard I am to catch!But if he gets backup, they’ll beat us both and take it anyway!”
Iruka seemed frozen with indecision.
“Please, Iruka-sensei.” Naruto’s voice turned serious. “I know how you feel.But if you’ve ever trusted me as one of your students, then please trust menow.”
Iruka said a few words under his breath that were definitely unfit for theears of young Academy trainees. “Be careful, Naruto.” And he ran after thesecond traitor.
As soon as he was gone, Mizuki turned back to Naruto.
“Well, that was interesting. You just sent him chasing after a clone under theTransformation Technique, didn’t you? Are you so arrogant you think you cantake me on your own?”
Naruto nodded. “Well, that and I had something to ask you.”
“You’re the one who framed me for cheating in the written test, right? Youwanted to make sure I couldn’t pass the final exam, so you set it up sosomeone saw ‘me’ reading the test in the teachers’ lounge, and got medisqualified. Why?”
“Oh, so you figured that out.” Mizuki shrugged. “Well, I was always going touse one of the failed students to steal the scroll for me. But then I got thisbrilliant idea for how to screw you over at the same time. And you fell for itlike a complete sucker.”
“But why me?” Naruto frowned. “I always figured you for one of the few peoplethat didn’t automatically hate my guts. What did I ever do to you?”
Mizuki laughed. “Oh, this is rich. I suppose I may as well tell you before youdie.”
“Tell me what?”
“They’ve all been lying to you, Naruto. For your entire life. Lying to youabout what you are and what you’ve done.”
Mizuki raised his voice dramatically. “You’re not human. You’re a monster.You’re Kyubey, the Nine-Brained Demon Fox that attacked Leaf Village twelveyears ago!”
Naruto shrugged. “Yeah, I know.”
“Come on, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out. The Nine-Brained Demon Foxattacks the village around my birthday. Then it disappears, and nobody talksor writes about what happened to it. Not “the Fourth Hokage killed it”. Not“the Fourth Hokage drove it away”. He does something heroic to it, and thenit’s gone. And then everyone in the village hates me, like really hates me,for as long as I can remember, and they never ever say why.”
“Oh, come on.” Mizuki seemed torn between disbelief and outrage. “There’s noway you could work it out from just that!”
“Well, after I made that connection, I did some digging through the registersin the Civic Library. You’d be amazed how little attention people pay you ifyou show them a few ryō and tell them an overworked Jōnin paid you to spendthe day looking up boring facts for him. Anyway, did you know that there’sbeen exactly one other person in Leaf Village called Uzumaki? And that shedied on the Night of Tragedy? And that she was the container for the Nine-Brains at the time?”
Mizuki endeavoured to replace his jaw. “Uh… well, anyway, that’s why. No-one’sever going to take the Demon Fox’s word over mine, not with the cheatingthing, and not if anything went wrong here. It’s perfect. That, and you justpiss me off.”
“Fair enough. Now what?”
“Now… you die!” Mizuki finally grabbed the Fūma Shuriken from his back, andthrew it full-strength at Naruto.
Naruto did not dodge. In fact, he sat perfectly still, watching with interestas the enormous blade flew right at his head. Then he vanished as it madecontact.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Mizuki snapped. “I’ve been talking to a clone?”
He jumped down to ground level and started walking towards the scroll, takingcare not to step on any of the multitude of sharp things littering theclearing. As he came close to the middle, he heard a voice.
“Let’s play a game,” announced a new clone, appearing close to where theprevious one had been.
Mizuki gave him a look of contempt. “Trying to buy time? Don’t bother. I’mtaking the scroll, and then I’ll have all the time in the world to find youand gut you.”
Naruto ignored him. “Round One is called Let’s Guess Which Lethal ForbiddenTechnique Naruto Learned Today.”
Now Mizuki stopped.
“If you win, you get to advance to Round Two. If you lose… you die.”
There was a soft popping sound, and then something moved in Mizuki’speripheral vision. He whirled around to see a kunai coming at him fast. Hewasn’t a Chūnin for nothing, though, and he had one of his own ready todeflect in a fraction of a second.
The kunai touched… and then the attacking blade disappeared in a puff ofsmoke.
“You almost had me going for a second, you little monster.” Mizuki started toturn back, then reflexively moved to try to block a second kunai coming at himfrom the edge of his vision. The same thing happened again.
“But as a delaying tactic, this is pretty feeble. So some of this stuff on theground is clones in disguise. So they transform back and throw kunai at mewhen I’m not looking. What are they going to do, annoy me to death?”
Mizuki didn’t even bother blocking the third kunai. Then it drew a sharp lineof pain across his cheek.
A fourth kunai exploded into mist upon touching his defence.
A fifth bounced off when he blocked, and only vanished after it hit theground.
“Shadow clones?! How the hell can you make shadow clones?!”
The Naruto clone sitting by the scroll cheered. “All right! You pass RoundOne. Now it’s time for Round Two, the ever-popular Find and Destroy All theShadow Clones Before Iruka-sensei Comes Back and Kicks Your Ass round!”
Mizuki spat curses at Naruto, several so exceptionally foul that Naruto made anote to go look them up in a dictionary afterwards.
“If you win, you get to take the scroll and escape. If you lose… you die. Oh,and trying to leave the clearing or take the scroll early counts as a forfeit.If you do that, all the shadow clones will throw their kunai at you at once,from every possible angle. In other words… you die.”
Mizuki was starting to get pretty tense. “You’re bluffing. So you’ve got fouror five shadow clones hidden in this clearing. They’re still clones of apathetic dropout, and I’m a Chūnin instructor. What do you think they can doto me?”
To Mizuki’s increasing discomfort, Naruto started to laugh loudly. “Four orfive? Oh, that’s good. Oh, man, you really know how to tell ‘em, Mizuki-sensei.”
“Wh-What’s so funny?”
“You said it yourself: I’m the Nine-Brained Demon Fox. And what’s the Nine-Brained Demon Fox famous for, apart from its amazing intelligence and devilishgood looks?”
Mizuki was starting to sweat. “What?”
“Its incredible chakra control, duh. I can sit here making shadow clones allday long with the amount of chakra you’d need just to scratch your nose.”
“Now, let’s get back to the game. I’ve got a bet going with the real Naruto onhow many wounds you’re going to take before it’s over.”
The next kunai was from a normal clone. The two after that were solid.Mizuki’s movements grew increasingly frantic as blades flew at him from everypossible direction, always coming from just outside his line of sight, thefrequency gradually increasing, with no pattern to help him tell the shadowkunai from the harmless ones. To make things even worse, every fake kunai heblocked vanished in a puff of smoke right next to his face, brieflyobstructing his vision.
Mizuki lay whimpering on the ground, too tired and traumatised to move, andbleeding from dozens of small cuts.
“I see you’re out of kunai,” the Naruto clone commented cheerfully. “Guess I’dbetter have the clone Iruka-sensei’s been chasing duck out of sight and dispelhimself.”
There was a pop, and the forbidden technique scroll next to the clonetransformed into Naruto.
“Thanks. I win the bet, though. He lasted way longer than we expected.”
“Yeah, yeah. We should clean up - Iruka-sensei’s gonna be here any minute.”
Naruto snapped his fingers and the entire clearing was temporarily covered inmist. When it faded a second later, all of the “litter” was gone, as was thebet-winning clone. He pulled the real scroll out from behind a random treesome way outside the clearing. As an afterthought, he also dug the FūmaShuriken out of the ground and threw it down next to Mizuki’s semi-comatoseform.
“Oh, by the way…” he whispered in Mizuki’s ear. “You were right. There wereonly five shadow clones.”
Iruka-sensei made his appearance a couple of minutes later.
“Naruto! You’re safe! Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe.” He was nearly crying withrelief.
Naruto felt a little guilty, but reminded himself that the whole thing hadbeen for Iruka’s own protection (aside from the part of it that was abouttesting out his shiny new technique… and the part that was about gettingrevenge on a bastard who’d been one smart choice away from murdering somerandom classmate of Naruto’s).
Iruka stared at Mizuki, who was lying in the foetal position muttering “nomore… please, no more…”
“What the heck happened, Naruto?!”
“He tried to throw his giant shuriken thing at me, but forgot to let go. Afterhe got over the pain of stabbing himself with all the corners, he had anervous breakdown over what a pathetic failure of a ninja he was. That madehim collapse on top of it, which is how he got all those other injuries.”Naruto explained confidently.
“Uh-huh. And what really happened?”
“Aww.” Naruto looked sulky. “Fine. I learned the Multiple Shadow CloneTechnique from that scroll and made a bunch of clones beat him up. But can youmake sure you put that first version in your report?”
Iruka laughed. “You never change, do you, Naruto?”
And the rest of the evening was taken up by an incredulous ANBU receptionistand a whole lot of ramen.
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