Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, etc. Borrowing for the purposes of entertainment, procrastination, and basically, escapism.

Warning: Possible spoilers. I read up to Ch 198 of the manga when I wrote this part. It's pretty safe, if you've read up to that. Spoilers are actually hard to detect, if you think about it. ;;


It was 245 minutes after twilight; the night was of the third week into the season of autumn. All this the sky told him, only heartily affirming his ever-strong belief that life should be spent gazing at the blue infinity above, be it to watch clouds or stars.

Actually, he wasn't paying much attention to his favorite pastime. The fact that he noticed the constellations' placement or the moon's phase and position in the horizon only proved he wasn't as relaxed as his sprawl on his favorite indolent-lounging spot suggested. What else but women could destroy his tranquility?

After a few more moments of expounding on the question of "why me," Nara Shikamaru ruefully rose from his comfortable position. It would be unfair if he kept on running away from Ino, after all. With the Godaime, the game was always exciting and near-even-----Tsunade herself seemed to enjoy it enough not to punish her lazy bum of a tactician. His wife, however, had not the advantages of having several teams of ANBU under her command to hunt for her no-good-husband. It was rather contemptible of him to take advantage of such a situation, wasn't it?

With a sigh, he flitted off, greeting an old classmate he happened to meet. Haruno Sakura was on her way to Uchiha's house, no doubt, Shikamaru thought in passing. If it weren't so much trouble to walk through the extensive---and mostly empty----property of the almost mythical clan to actually reach the aloof jounin's house, Shikamaru might just bother to visit Sasuke one of these days. Maybe it wasn't too late to warn him.

Then again, he, Nara Shikamaru, who had all the warning he needed from growing up with his "laid-back" father and "take-charge" mother, and all the foreboding and dreading involved in being part of Asuma's genin cell, couldn't do anything to–

He stopped; it didn't matter, anyhow. By tomorrow... Sadly, he shook his head.

Uchiha Sasuke was doomed.

Oh well, he thought. None of my business.

He sighed again, then went his way to his best friend's house.

End prologue: 9:29 - 10:09 021104