Since I blogged about something I don’t recommend, I shouldn’t keep people waiting for something I do recommend:
A Drop of Poison by Angel of Snapdragons
This is one of my old favourites. The gist is that, because Iruka is unconscious when Naruto defeats Mizuki at the beginning of the series, things get very different in a very entertaining way.
First, Naruto discovers that some of his clones which he didn’t dispel have copies of the scroll, which he rushes to transcribe… in the process, learning that missed detail about how Kage Bunshin can transfer memories. Then, he discovers that he’s going to have to go back to the academy, but one of his clones discovers that they can fool the civilians into treating them well using Henge.
Throw in a chakra-draining technique from the scroll which is dangerous to flesh-and-blood ninja without the Akado bloodline, but perfectly safe as a way for Kage Bunshin to extend their lifespans indefinitely, and Naruto hatches a plan to set up two cover identities who can continue to learn at the academy even when teachers try to sabotage him.
…and then he decides to make another two identities to satisfy an impulsive desire to know what life is like for civilians and realizes how productive Kage Bunshin can make him when used for training and scavenging equipment.
I like how the author manages to casually justify this plan being a success. First, Iruka drops by and recognizes that Naruto is up to something, only to get talked into joining in the harmless little conspiracy. Thus, there’s a competent advisor to make sure Naruto can pull it off. Then, Iruka notices something off about Naruto’s hand seals and realizes that his transformation technique isn’t actually the standard Henge but some full-blown physical transformation that Naruto managed to cobble together from intentionally broken instructions. Then, one of Naruto’s clones finds an abandoned mansion that their new chakra draining technique allows them to gain entry to so they can use it as a hideout. …and then Iruka gets Sarutobi’s tacit approval on the promise that the plan he promised Naruto not to speak about isn’t illegal and has a good chance of working.
Over the course of the 200,000+ words, things get really developed, to the point where his use of Kage Bunshin winds up becoming a network of traders cum spies. (Sarutobi is finally let in on it in the wake of the Chunin Exam)
Yes, it sounds overpowered, but I’ve just summarized the most memorable aspects of over 200,000 words, and this is one of those stories that isn’t about how the hero wins, but how many novel things can happen as a side-effect of the hero being an ordinary person handed a superpower. I also like that Iruka is a main character. I haven’t run across enough fics that both hook my interest for other reasons and give him that kind of focus.
In fact, that’s probably the thing I like most about this story. While it is a bit of a curb-stomp story (though not as much as you’d think, given how hard it is to find Root when they start sabotaging their competition), it’s also a character story. When Iruka agrees to help Naruto, it’s preceded by a nice amount of introspection into how he sees the world. When Sarutobi agrees to the plan on the condition that Iruka take responsibility for keeping it from going awry, we see the final thing that tipped the scales: the prospect of forcing Iruka to break his promise to Naruto after Sarutobi failed to keep his promise to Minato about how Naruto should be treated… though it does drift away from the character focus somewhat during the Chunin exam.
It also has nice little touches I’ve never seen used before, like this:
Suddenly, the chūnin teacher realized that if things continued as they were now, and Naruto kept on in the academy, this might be the place where he’d end up. This simple thought of a prankster like the boy working around that much paperwork chilled his bones like never before, and pushed him to make sure that his protégé would never end up like this.
All in all, it’s a story that is flawed in that it doesn’t realize and capitalize on all the things it initially gets right, so the character focus gets diluted a bit, but it’s still an entertaining and very distinctive story that I remembered and came back to.
I forgot to take notes for a rating when I was re-reading it, but I estimate it’s probably a 4.5 out of 5.