The King's Gambit
A Xenocide Production

AN: Greetings, True Believers. This was actually inspired, believe it or not, by mrriddler's fic, Genius of Konoha. The way that he portrayed Orochimaru as a master manipulator without ever actually having him appear in his fic fascinated me. I made the off hand comment in a review: "I wonder how our favorite Nara would fare against the Snake Sannin in a game of chess?" This is the result. Two minds in the midst of warfare far more brutal than anything you would see on a battle field.

Enjoy and review………please?

Summary: A great chessplayer is not a great man, for he leaves the world as he found it.

Disclaimer: The Daily Bugle Headline: "Fanfic Author Does Not Own Naruto! Hangs Self in Protest!"

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"I think I shall be white today."

He is lounging languidly in his throne, a self-stylized king if there ever was one.

"I trust you have no objections, little Leaf?"

The boy shook his head in the negative. He learned quite some time ago to answer questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. It always saved him a great deal of trouble and pain.

He shuffled tiredly over to the small chest, reached down to open it, and pulled out a beautifully crafted rectangular box, with depictions of all the kami known to man, and some that weren't, etched into the polished surfaces of the no doubt expensive wood.

He carried it back over to the small table, ignoring the reptilian eyes that seemed eternally fixed on him.

Eyes focused on his task, he swiftly opened the box and pulled out a playing board, though not a board commonly seen in the Far East. It was checkered into black and white squares, laid out in an orderly fashion, alternating to take up the entire surface of the playing field.

He deftly reached into a velvet lined container and pulled out beautifully crafted pieces, each depicting a kami well known amongst the masses.

Of course, there were two sets of the pieces, identical in every aspect except their color.

He began to neatly array them, a small army of gods placed under the control of a mere mortal, to fight as they so chose. If the boy found any irony or amusement in the thought, he hid it well. The only humor allowed to be had belonged to the man sitting in the throne across from him. And the man's idea of humor far exceeded the realm of sanity or reason.

The boy had once seen him laugh heartily when one of his so called 'experiments' was deemed a success and paraded in front of his officers. While the others cackled and crowed in delight at their master's accomplishment, the boy could only be wretchedly and violently be sick in the corner of his little cell.

No human being should suffer so much torment.

The sickeningly amber eyes watched his every move, a gleam of some unknown emotion glimmering in their depths.

He saved the king for last, as he always did. A reminder of his mentor and captain, dead and gone for quite some time.

Izanagi, father of the gods, and lord of all creation. The Goddess Ameratsu, his daughter and the Queen, was by his side.

Tiredly, he sat down on the stool, wincing slightly at sore muscles and bruises. Some days his sessions with the snake were not quite as…gentle…as today's had been. Some days there were fists. Some days there were smiles. But always, always there was the board and the pieces.

Chess, he had come to learn it was called. A western game that possessed the same strategic ideals of shogi, though in a more grandiose and elaborate manner than a game with simple black and white stones for pieces.

He found it fortunate that he was a quick study, for Orochimaru was not a patient teacher. Progress was rewarded with a smile and a malevolent chuckle, while hesitation earned him a day on the bastard's experimentation table, to withstand some of the madman's tamer ministrations.

Those usually left him unable to move or speak for the better part of the next day and night.

But those were things best left to silence's strong embrace.

Without preamble, Orochimaru moved a piece. The game had begun, and all of Shikmaru's existence poured into it, for the game was all that was left.

The play was sometimes furious, with lighting moves played by each hand in a blur of master strategy. And sometimes, unbearable pauses were examined in between moves, where a thought stretched into infinity as hundreds of strokes and counterstrokes were weighed in each mind and discarded just as carefully.

Until a time came that the game came to and end, as all games must. A moment of victory that was sweeter than honey and bitterer than a mouthful of ashes.

Shikamaru leaned forward, and with a trembling hand, placed his rook in front of his opponent's king, effectively backing him into a corner and leaving him nowhere to retreat.

"Checkmate."

He marveled at the fact that his voice did not crack with the strain.

The Snake Sannin leaned back into his throne, reptilian eyes flickering lazily over the board. He already knew that the boy was right. But still, he had won.

"Well played, boy. Though I find your apparent eagerness to sacrifice your pieces very fascinating. Your chaotic movements masked your true intent."

The chuunin flinched slightly. Compliments from Orochimaru were more often than not dipped in poision and covered in barbs. They cut more often than they soothed.

"The King is the most important piece on the board." He replied quietly. "It's only logical that I should protect it."

"At the expense of every one of your soldiers?" The other queried in amusement.

There was no hesitation in the Nara's answer. "If necessary. There are many pawns. There is only one king."

There was a pause as Orochimaru studied the boy in front of him.

He finally gave him a slight nod of approval. "You learn fast, little leaf. I shall make a truly great chess player out of you yet."

"So you say." The boy murmurs in reply.

A beat.

"Kabuto will play you tomorrow. You will learn aspects of the Game from him that I cannot use." He chuckles. "He cares too much for his soldiers, and prefers to preserve his force. I, on the other hand, have no qualms against sacrificing for the greater good."

Another beat, this one heavily saturated with hidden meaning.

"You and I are quite alike, Nara-san. Our playing styles are not so different, when you come down to it."

The boy had no answer to that. What could he say? There are layers of truth to everything, and even the treacherous Otokage could speak a truth from time to time.

And there was no escaping this one.

But then……

"There is one difference." This time, his voice did waver slightly. He would be punished for daring to contradict his warden. Orochimaru grinned viciously. He knew it too.

But if only to allow the pain to be that much sweeter, he indulged the boy.

"Oh? And what might that be, young Nara of mine?"

Shikamaru picked up his black king in has hand, cradling it almost paternally in his grasp.

"My king fights alongside his pawns. They protect each other, and stand side by side."

Silence.

Then he continues. "Your king fights for himself, sending others in his stead. Eventually, his army will be whittled away, until he is facing the enemy with no succor or aid to save him."

The pale man shook his head in amusement. "You are still far too naïve to ever be a great chessplayer, Nara-san. You yourself said there is only one king. Even alone, the king can still win."

He did not give the boy a chance to reply. There was only so much insolence he would tolerate, after all.

He whirled and stalked out of the chamber, words floating behind him as he exited. "Till tomorrow, Nara-san. I look forwards to the next game."

The boy was left sitting on the stool, still staring aimlessly at the white piece.

A pawn who yearned to be king.

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Not coherent, or even the least bit enjoyable, but I had to write it anyways.

Because even though I'm writing like a madman possessed on Ch6 of IO, I still like to take advantage of my fits of creativity.

Lend me your thoughts and opinions, True Believers. I eagerly, as always, await them.