The Element War
Note: Part II of 'What If' #34
Naruto Watched impassively as the crew clones dumped the last body off of what had, until a couple minutes before, been a pirate ship. A gesture created another batch of clones and soon his two ships were back on course to his island paradise leaving only a group of well fed sharks and a blood stained straw hat behind.
The Hokage smiled wide when Kakashi and Team Seven walked into his office. Not a minute late, looked as if his threat/warning had been taken seriously.
"You called for us, Hokage-sama," Kakashi stated.
"Yes, as I mentioned in my note, the Narutos are up to something again and it is up to you to stop it if you wish to avoid being responsible for even more damages."
"Might I ask what they are doing this time, Hokage-sama?"
"They've broken into groups and are arguing about which element is the best, they've determined that the best way to determine which group is correct is to stage a war. The winning side is right, the losing sides are dead, and I suspect a large portion of the village will be destroyed. Your mission, should you chose to accept it to avoid being responsible for the damages, is to prevent the Element war. Good luck, your bank account depends on it."
"We won't fail you, Hokage-sama," Sakura stated after it became evident that her team leader had passed out.
"Yes, Hokage-sama," Sakura agreed.
The clone in the crows nest leapt to his feet with a cry of excitement. "Land Ho!"
"How's it look?" Naruto called back.
"Completely undeveloped. We'll need to construct everything from scratch."
"What we expected," Naruto mused. "Lower a longboat and send out a landing party."
"Housing sites and a good place to construct a warf?" one of the clones asked.
"Yes," Naruto replied. "Make sure there won't be any surprises. Be just our luck to find a secret Mist base or something."
It did not take long to find Hinata, the girl was at her team training grounds giggling in a way that bore a disturbing resemblance to the sounds Kakashi made when reading his favorite book.
"Why don't you too see what she knows," Kakashi ordered. "You already know her." And he didn't want anything to do with the creepy kuonichi or her bizarre laughter.
Sakura shot her instructor a poisonous glare before following his orders. "Hey, Hinata, how have you been?"
"Woooonnnnnnderful," the girl purred. "This has been the best week ever."
"Uh . . . great," Sakura said awkwardly. "So, uh, we were hoping to ask you a few things about Naruto."
"A-rank pay," the girl said immediately.
"What?" Sakura said dumbly.
"The village already assigned me a long term S-rank mission for the study of Naruto-kun, A-rank pay for anything extra." The girl had become quite mercenary after learning exactly what she could get with the right amount of ramen.
"Sensei?" Sakura turned to the man.
"Done," Kakashi said instantly, knowing that it was likely much cheaper to just pay up.
"What can you tell us about the element war and why it's happening?" Sakura asked.
Hinata wilted. "Pay for six D-rank missions."
"I don't know much about that, but I do have a source I can give you."
Kakashi perked up a bit, things were looking up. "Deal, what do you know?"
"Cash in advance," Hinata replied. "You are well known for tardiness and I would not wish to find out if that extends to paying your debts."
Kakashi paid the girl without a word.
"There is a Naruto that specializes in information, but he'll do pretty much anything if you give him enough ramen." Hinata giggled pervertedly. "He hangs out in the back corner of Naruto's favorite ramen shop. Tell him that I sent you."
"Come on, team, we've got a mystery to solve," Sakura said, growing more and more uncomfortable by Hinata's behavior and wanting to get away from the other girl as quickly as possible.
Naruto leaned back as far as he could as his gaze stared off into the horizon. This was the life, no responsibilities, no villagers, no expectations. Nothing but wind, sand and waves.
"Should have the distillery set up by the end of the week," his chief clone reported. "Docks will be done by about the same time."
"By the end of the day."
"Excellent," Naruto sighed, a peaceful retirement at last.
There were two dozen clones in the ramen shop when they arrived. Tucked in a dark booth in the back corner was one clone that had some indefinable quality that made him stand out from the rest. Slowly, they approached the booth and Sakura cleared her throat to draw his attention.
"I, we need your help with something," Sakura said, having given up on her instructor or her other teammate.
"Standard fee is three bowls for a sit down, I'll tell you how much more it'll take to complete your request," the clone said calmly. "Old man knows what I like, buy the tickets and bring them back, and we can get started with our business."
"You're charging us for a meeting?"
"Cuts down on the number of people that waste my time."
The transaction was made and she slid the stack of mealtickets across the counter. The clone carefully checked each ticket before turning back to the conversation.
"Well, you do what you have to, to get your ramen." He sighed. "Okay, Sakura, tell me what you want and I'll tell you how much more ramen it'll cost you."
"I don't want anything, it's Kakashi-sensei that needs you."
"There isn't enough ramen in the world," the clone said flatly.
"We need information on how to stop the element war before it begins.
"Why didn't you say so? Should have started with that rather than telling me Hinata sent you. It'll cost you one hundred bowls of ramen."
Sakura's eyes narrowed. "What does Hinata have you do?" she asked suspiciously.
"Thousand bowls for that info."
"We don't have time for that right now," Kakashi interjected. The man quickly paid the waitress and turned the tickets over to the clone.
"Legend tells of one of us, a Naruto just like any of us that decided to revisit our prank on the Hokage monument. Inspired, he went up to complete his task only to be caught in a pit trap. Four days and four nights he went without ramen." The clone shuddered in horror at the thought. "The first night went quickly, he'd eaten before he left and he still had hope that he'd be able to get out and eat himself sick the next morning. The withdraws hit the second night, he lay in the bottom of the pit screaming and covered with his own filth. You understand that he went quite mad the third, reason left him and he was nothing but a twisted shell until the fourth night when it happened."
"He achieved enlightenment." The clone smiled. "Speak with him, ask him to end this senseless fight. None of us are half as respected as the one who survived four days and four nights of hell."
Naruto sighed in contentment. Going back in time had not adversely affected his ability to mix a cocktail. Two ounces of rum, one ounce of lime juice, half an ounce of simple syrup, and a dash or two of bitters equaled bliss. Best thing about going back in time was that he was young enough to really appreciate his retirement and had even more years to enjoy it. Naruto smiled, he was going to have to devote some time to studying the matter to see if he could replicate it.
They found the clone they were searching for sitting on a boulder with a look of serenity on his face and a stack of empty ramen bowls at his side.
"I sense that you have come with a question," the clone said serenely.
"We were told that you could stop the element war," Sakura volunteered.
"I can indeed," the clone agreed. "But should I?"
"Yes," she replied instantly.
"So sure of yourself," the clone laughed. "How could I ignore such sincerity. Very well. Kakashi, use an awesome jutsu to make a giant flaming dragon covered in lightning or something and shoot it straight up. My other selves will know to come."
Come they did, there were thousands of them. Trees, buildings, every inch of ground was covered by Narutos.
"My fellows!" the enlightened clone called out. "I have heard of your conflict and have been asked to end it by telling you which side is right, which element is best." The assembled Narutos held their breath, the air went still. "The answer is simple, none of them are the best. Rather than elements, you should focus on explosive seals that combine them all for what is cooler than a meteor with a core of ice covered in fire, crackling with lightning, and surrounded by air blades falling to the ground and exploding when the ice turns to steam? Nothing, that's what!"
The assembled Narutos gave a mighty cheer.
Kakashi felt numb, falling to his knees he didn't even notice the arrival of the Anbu team.
"Hatake Kakashi, the Hokage would like to see you in his office right now."
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