Ah the clouds, they're so lovely. So carefree, so still, just letting the wind carry them into whatever direction it's blowing. I envy them, with a bitter jealousy that few could possibly possess. I wish I could be up there. I wish I could be carried away by the wind, away from this God-forsaken place, away from this God-forsaken war.

My name is Shikamaru Nara, Private First Class, 2nd Platoon, Fox Company of the Konoha Infantry Battalion. For the twenty-three years that I've been on this patch of Earth life has been carefree and decent, taking care of the deer ranch with my father and mother. Things were routine and life was good. I had friends, fun, and most importantly, nothing troublesome...then the conflict started.

Since I've been around things have been relatively peaceful since the last war, the Great War, which devastated most of the nations in the land twenty-five years ago. Bloody and brutal warfare took so many soldiers and ruined so many families. It wasn't until my land, Konohagakure, the Leaf Village, got involved and helped bring about the end by defeating Otokagure, the Sound Village. I was only a small child when it was over. Twenty years later, the peace finally came to an end.

It came from right under our noses. The Soundies struck with such ferocity and a revitalized military the likes which no one has ever seen. The Lightning, Grass, Earth, Rain, and Waterfall lands fell rapidly in succession, in the period of just a little more than a year. Sunakagure, the Sand Village, just say idly by as part of a pact formed with the Soundies. Next came the Water and Mist lands that were pounded unmercifully by aerial attack. Meanwhile we sat by and did nothing, stubborn to drag ourselves in another awful conflict, but the Soundies made the choice for us by attacking our borders. It took a few months but they were repelled, though we took some losses.

The anger raged in us like a wildfire. Revenge was what the people cried for, and so we mobilized, and here I am. It's already been six months and I'm still stuck in this damn war, how troublesome. My whole generation was drafted in the surge of patriotism, and those that were reluctant were drafted anyway. I was selected as a squad sniper due to the rotten luck of me being a good shot. "Sure Shot Shikamaru" they call me because I rarely if ever miss. I should remind myself to punch Choji for coming up with that stupid nickname. Clutching my Springfield rifle, I continue to stare at the sky, wishing I could be up there, away from the strife. How troublesome…

"HEY NARA! Come on!" An obnoxious yell comes from my side, near the base of the hill. My eyes roll at his sight.
"What do you want, pipsqueak?" I reply to the spastic blonde.
"The rest of the platoon is waiting for your lazy ass! This war ain't gonna be won just standing around, not if there's a Soundie still shootin' at us!"
"I swear to God Naruto, sometimes I think your ambition will be the death of you."
"Maybe it will be, but my time's not for me to decide right?"
"Typical Naruto…"

Private Naruto Uzumaki, I don't know what I could say to summarize him in one or two sentences. He's undoubtedly the most hyperactive and goofy sum'bitch I've encountered, but God Almighty do I admire his enthusiasm, and he's only two years younger than me. Most of the platoon cannot stand him, especially Corporal Neji Hyuga and Sergeant Sasuke Uchiha. Guys like them see him as nothing but a nuisance and someone who'd get 'em killed easily, but so far that's yet to be proven. The other guys tolerate him, some less than others. Choji and I get along with him, mostly because he never seemed to bother us and all three of us have saved each others asses on at least one occasion. From what I heard the poor kid was an orphan since he was a baby and had it pretty rough. His inexhaustible optimism is rather inspiring, as strange as it may be given his circumstances.

Lumbering along, I catch up with the rest of the group, shrugging off the glares from my peers. I know they think I'm lazy and apathetic, but honestly it never concerned me. The usual faces with the usual dirty looks, like good old shithead Neji Hyuga. I swear if cold and demeaning had pictures in the dictionary, you'd find his mug there. His intelligence and skill got him to corporal quickly, much to the chagrin of some of the guys. He seems to have a bone to pick with our platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Rock Lee. I call it envy in its purest form. Lee was always a motivated and dedicated kind of guy, the guy that'd charge a minefield, lose a leg, and still take the objective with only a pocket knife. Hell you could say the goofy lookin' bastard was my opposite, always striving to advance while I stay in the shadows. Neji obviously wanted to be the leader but somehow didn't make the grade. Whatever…

"God damn it Shikamaru, one day we're gonna leave you where you sleep just to teach you a lesson, that is if you're not dead by the time you find us!" The perky blonde known as Ino Yamanaka yells to me. Yeah she's my friend and all, but so unbelievably annoying. I wonder if I could trade her for Naruto but without her, we'd be short one medic.
"Ino, stifle it. No point in arguing with him. It's not that he's lazy, it's just that he doesn't care." The oddly shaped forehead girl said in an attempt to calm Ino down and irritate me. That little lady would be Corporal Sakura Haruno, the head engineer of the platoon. Sassy, energetic, and very intelligent, it's no wonder she was a fit to pal around with her boy toy squad leader Sasuke. I envy that sum'bitch for havin' a girl like her, though I'd be wise never to cross her. She was the type of gal that'd beat you senseless for saying the wrong thing.
"Ah the childish bickering of the youth. It never ceases to amuse me. Surrounding us is the lush tranquility of the country and yet the children still persist in considering their squabble more important."
"Cute words Shino. How about you shut that yap and keep marching?" Sasuke barks.

Only one person could speak that high-quality mish-mash and that'd be the platoon resident scholar, Corporal Shino Aburame. Normally very stoic and introverted, he likes to chime in with his wisdom from time to time, at the expense of our understanding and/or patience. An academy graduate, he could've been an officer but instead decided to enlist to "get the feel of the common soldier, the dirt-caked grunt, the hard-charging infantryman." I consider him more stupid than smart for that little move. He also acts as an interrogator, straight man, and intelligence collector, so despite his smartass demeanor, he is pretty vital. The man shutting him up is the "lovable", angst-filled Sasuke Uchiha. His talent in war fighting was noted early by the higher-ups, notably Colonel Jiraiya and Captain Kakashi Hatake, our company commander. Personally I never liked him, mostly due to his slight arrogance, anger trips, and this overconfidence he carries which drive Ino and Sakura to squabble for his affection. Immature I say.

"So Sergeant Sarutobi, what's on tap for the rest of the day?" I ask my squad leader, Staff Sergeant Asuma Sarutobi. Now normally, I'm an aloof guy who usually just does his job and that's it, but SSG Sarutobi I'll admit is one person who I actually admire and be open with. Hell he taught me everything I know now, not to mention once saving me from a mortar barrage in a Soundie ambush.
"Well we're gonna move about five more clicks due northeast, set up camp, and prepare for the next assignment. What the details of it are I have no clue. One thing I do know private, is that it's gonna be a gay old time come tomorrow."
"Just what I wanted to hear sergeant." I said with the air of slight annoyance.
"We don't tell you what you want to hear, but what you are ordered to do."
"Yes sergeant." I reply. We knew the village nearby was controlled by the Soundies. Kumogakure, the Cloud Village. It was one of the first to fall under their war machine, and by God it would be one of the first we liberated. Higher command believed that with every village we liberated, we'd arm them to take on the Soundies. Similar efforts by the Water military helped out the Land of Waves and Land of the Sea. Slowly but surely the Soundies were having their iron grip on these lands start to rust, but they could still defeat us should we be careless.
"So Shikamaru, whaddaya think we'll be doing?" asked Choji, lugging his .30 caliber machine gun over his shoulder while Ino carried ammunition along with her medical supplies behind him with some effort.
"Whaddaya think we'll be doing Choji? Spreading freedom and liberation to the oppressed, like the newspapers so majestically claim."
"No smartass, I mean literally not figuratively. I heard about a possible plan to assault the Cloud Village. I'm kinda nervous about it. I heard they've got that placed armed to the teeth!"
"I'm sure they do. These Soundies don't fuck around. That's how they go so powerful in the years prior to the Water forces and our forces going on the attack."
"Wow for such a big guy Choji you sure are always so scared. Guess those muscles maybe give you more strength but not more courage." Ino complained.
"Shut the fuck up Ino! You feel the anxiety like just like everyone else does." He snaps.

Choji was my best friend even when we were little kids. Everyone poked fun at his fattiness except for me and Naruto. He understood Naruto's pain given the fact he was shunned unmercifully as well and I found it too troublesome to kick a kid while he's down. I'll say one thing about Choji though, ever since the invasion from the Soundies he's a fatty no more. His strength is enough to lug that big gun with little problem and crush even the first sergeant, Might Guy. He says getting this strong was to show everyone that he's not some Pillsbury Doughboy to poke around and if they did they'd pay for it. Of course Naruto and I still jab at him, but he knows it's all in good jest. Ino is a little cruel to him for reasons unknown, but I always knew Choji liked Ino and since all of our parents are good friends, past incidents brought about awkwardness, humiliation, and even pain for Choji. I believe the number of times Choji has unsuccessfully asked Ino on a date is up to three hundred fifty-two since they were both sixteen. Hilarious is what I call it. Ino herself is an enigma when it comes to Choji and me. Sometimes she's cheerful and helping and then sometimes she's downright bitchy. Must be the time of the month or something…