Author's note: I've changed the shape of this story so that I can continue it in a new light. I realize this is the first and second chapter, but I'd like it to be considered a prologue as to what I have planned. A real first chapter is on its way. Please be patient with me, even though I don't really deserve it. ^/-\^

Shikamaru winced, the pain in his side flaring as he tried to roll to sit up. A couple of ribs had to be broken, but he couldn't be sure. More than the pain, the darkness was overwhelming. He couldn't so much as see his hand in front of his face. The enemy ninja that had attacked him had been thorough, he'd give them that. They had tried several techniques to simply knock him out, and when he'd managed to evade and outsmart them, they simply beat him into unconciousness. Gee, imagine that. He wasn't even sure what country these ninja were from, and if they were rogue or enemy of the leaf. He hadn't seen any headbands, but that really didn't matter. Hopefully whenever his captors came to check on him, or torture him, he could get some more information. He would just have to try to stay one step ahead of them. He was intelligent, he could do this. He had been through this sort of training for a reason. After the failed mission to retrieve Sasuke, he had trained with Ibiki for just this sort of situation. After seeing just how much he and his peers had left to learn about the world of ninja, he wanted to be prepared for anything. Of course, he had been hoping that he wouldn't have to put it to use so soon.

In the utter dark, he had time to wonder why his enemies had captured him. He'd been on a light mission with Asuma, Ino, and Choji. It was nothing of national importance. It had been a simply delivery mission to a neighboring village. Honestly the mission had been designed to give them a break and allow them some time to work as a team again. Shikamaru had been working as a Chunin and this was their first mission together since the exams. There was certainly nothing involved in it that would require his kidnapping. So it was most likely that they were enemy ninja looking for delicate information. Of course, it would have made more sense for them to target Asuma. He was the Jounin of the group. Perhaps they'd just picked him because he was an easier target, and still a high enough rank to be informed. Still, he was an odd choice. There had been five of them, and more skilled than he'd have thought needed just to deal with one man. They had to be trailing them for a while. The group had known the perfect moment to strike to take him out without any interference from his team. Luckily he had no doubt that Asuma would find him. He just had to kill time until then and survive.

The hours seemed to pass slowly, or perhaps they were flying by, he really had no way of telling. There was just himself and the all enveloping blackness, and he had to give it to them, it was an excellent interrogation tactic. By the time they came in, they'd hope he'd be so desperate for information that he'd talk. He'd have to do his best to keep calm. Though, the longer he was here, alone with nothing to keep him but his thoughts, he had to admit that even being the loner he was, he was hoping to see someone soon.

As soon as he had woken up he had realized that he wasn't tied up. He'd also realized that he had no chakra reserves whatsoever. He could even muster enough to release a genjutsu or climb. There was just nothing there. It was as if he'd never pulled chakra before. What could they have done to prevent it? He felt no paper tags on his body. He tried to move around, but his body was so sore. Trying to get to his knees was causing him almost more pain than he could bear. He had inched around on the cold cement in all directions, but he hadn't even found a wall, much less a door. There wasn't much he could do but wait.

The lights turning on hurt more than he thought they would. After a few minutes his eyes adjusted and he took a look at the people who had walked in. Three men and one woman. Two of the men looked like they could be world class body builders, and they had enough chakra to spare. They woman was slim, with plenty of chakra herself, dressed in black leather and looking like she could take on both of them. But the other man didn't look like he belonged at all. He was slim and tall, in a loose, unimpressive kimono. He had black hair and violet eyes. He didn't give off much of a chakra signal, and he certainly didn't look like he was in the same class as the others, but it was obvious he was the leader. He moved in first as the others flocked around him in an almost subserviant manner. This was the man that had ordered his capture, even though none of the ninja with him were part of the group that took him. This was the person he'd have to get his information from.

"Alright, stand him up so we can take a look at him," the leader said. "Let's see what we have to work with."

That was odd. What sort of torture techniques were they planning before even trying to talk to him? He raised an eyebrow but didn't resist as the two muscle men stood him up. Instead he winced and took a good look at them. Both were so muscular it was insane. One had dark, mocha skin and black tribal tattoos all over his body. He had blood red hair that reached his shoulders and was tied back with black thread. The other was slightly tanned, wore blue kabuki makeup, and was bald. The woman walked up as soon as they had him on his feet, and he had a hard time not staring at her ample chest which was pushed up with her leather bustier that didn't fully cover her midrift. Her skin was fair, her hair black, but what caught him offguard was her bright blue eyes. They were so crystal clear they glowed faintly. He would have taken in more, but the bodyguards pulled him up straight and he couldn't help the small gasp that escaped him. The leader raised an eyebrow at that.

"What's wrong with him? Tasku, take off his shirt. I want to see what those idiots did to him?"

The bald guy nodded. "Hai, Akito-sama."

Surprisingly enough, Tasku didn't even try to pull it over his head. He simply ripped the cotton and mesh from his body like it was paper. Shikamaru gasped again and growled, "Hey, watch it!"

Akito payed no mind to him and pushed the girl out of the way. He looked carefully at the teen's body and scowled. Shikamaru's ribs were bruised and there were a few bloody scabs. He fingered them carefully; mindless of the shadow nin's squirming. "Oh, look at this. He's a freaking mess. I can't believe they were so damn careless. Take his hair down. I need to check his scalp."

These guys were thorough, and if their tactic was to keep him guessing, they were doing a great job. However, he wasn't much enjoying the game. "What do you want from me?"

Tasku responded by pulling the tie out of his hair harshly, whipping his head back. Akito frowned. "Stop hurting him. It's not going to do any good right now."

Right now? What was he talking about? And why was he demanding they take such good care of him? "What are you doing? Tell me what's going on."

Akito's fingers swept through his hair as he felt the boy's scalp, and growled even harder when he came across a few bumps. "I can't believe this. They trashed him. What are they, nubes? Shiro, heal him. We can't have all these scrapes and bruises. It just won't do."

"Yes, Akito-sama." The woman in all leather took the slim leader's place. Her hands glowed a light green that signified medical ninjutsu and she ran her hands over his sore body. Slowly his wounds healed and the sickly colored skin faded into its normal light tan.

"Why are you healing me?" Shikamaru asked. "What are you expecting from me?"

"Much better," Akito smirked. "Now, remove the rest of his clothing. I want to get a good look at him."

"Hold on a minute. Can't we talk about this logically?"

Tasku grabbed the hem of Shikamaru's shorts and the shadow nin reacted without thinking. Swiftly he kicked the muscle man in the knee as hard as he could. Tasku flinched and let go, but the bronze man was still there, holding him tightly with one hand while he raised the other to strike him.

"Daouma, stop!" Akito called. "I won't have you bruising him right after we've healed him. It will have defeated the purpose. Both of you hold him. Shiro can remove his pants."

The Nara growled. "Leave my clothes alone, damnit!" He was doing his best to keep his cool, just like Ibiki taught him, but it was hard seeing as they were stripping him and completely ignoring him. He tried struggling again, but Tasku and Daouma were holding him tightly, and he was just no match for their strength. Shiro unsnapped and unzipped his shorts, pulling them down to his ankles. The other two lifted him off the ground so she could take them off, and once they were gone his sandaled foot flew into her face, knocking her back. She swore as her ass hit the ground and the two men growled, but Akito just laughed.

"He's got so much spirit. I love it. Now take off his sandals."

The muscle men both held one arm and one leg, preventing him from hurting Shiro as she removed his shoes. All that was left was his boxers, and those were swiftly removed as well. No amount of training could prepare him to be naked in front of these strangers. He couldn't stop the blush that rose on his face. Tasku and Daouma put him back on the ground and he squirmed under Akito's scrutiny.

"Nice," the leader muttered. "He's a little thin, but then again, the lean look is in nowadays, and he has good muscles in his thighs. His penis doesn't look to bad either, but I'd like to see it fully erect. Shiro, get to it."

Shiro kneeled in front of the teen but he wasn't having it. "That's enough! Tell me what's going on!"

Akito sighed and picked up the discarded leaf headband, tossing it to Daouma. "Shut him up. He's starting to get on my nerves."

The metal plate was shoved between his teeth and the cloth was tied behind his head. He tried to scream something, but it was muffled and he was unable to form syllables. He moved to kick at her, but was prevented again. Shiro took his member in her hand and before he could blink she had wrapped her ruby lips around it. Her tongue flicked the sensitive head and he gasped. That wet, warm mouth playing along the length of his shaft excited him, no matter how hard he tried to squelch the feeling. Shiro was the first woman, hell the first person ever to touch him that way. His body was reacting to her sweet caresses, and he felt his manhood stiffen at her touch. Regardless of his situation, or how he was trying to think of anything but her skillful tongue working up and down his penis, touching every nerve and sucking sweetly. He groaned despite himself, and his knees wobbled as she fingered his balls gently. He was trembling all over, and pressure was pooling in his groin, almost ready to burst.

"Enough, Shiro. He looks erect enough."

She pulled back with a wicked grin. "But Akito-sama, I was hoping to taste him."

"There will be enough time for that later. Now move over."

Shiro stood and stepped back, winking at the boy as she did so. Shikamaru was trembling, wondering just what it was they were trying to prove. He was only thirteen. He had never been exposed to this kind of treatment, and his genius IQ was flying out the window. He had to think of something fast, but that became much harder when Akito stepped forward and fingered his erection.

"Simply wonderful, and very impressive for a young man his age. Our client will be pleased. Alright, it's getting late. Let's get him to his room. We'll put him in the oriental room. Number 13 has been here for a while. He can break him in."

The headband was removed from the young Nara's mouth, but before he could ask any questions Tasku struck the back of his head, and his world went black once more.

"...Hey, are you awake?"

Darkness, again. Somehow he wasn't terribly surprised. Still, he wished he had stayed in his dream. He had been happy, flying through a sky of soft, fluffy clouds of rainbow colors. It was certainly a better alternative to being...well, wherever he was and whatever they had planned for him. He laid still on the cold floor and sighed. Now what?

A soft hand ran over his bare back and little lower than his hip. Apparently he was still naked.

"Don't touch me!" he hissed and rolled away, coming up on his knees. He was still sore, but thanks to Shiro's mysteriously ordered healing, he wasn't in the same intense pain he had been before. The young ninja was trembling all over, but he had to be strong. These people were apparently experts at shock interrogation, and there was no telling what they had planned for him. He had to be as strong as possible. Team Ten would find him. He just had to wait it out.

"It's okay, it's okay," the voice said. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Shikamaru glanced in the direction of the voice, or at least he thought he did. No matter how hard he squinted, he couldn't see anything in the total blackness. He listened carefully to the sound of the man. It had to be a man, it was too low and rough to be female. It wasn't the voice of Akito, or any of the followers he'd heard so far. The hand hadn't been large enough to be Tasku or Daouma, or calloused enough. So who was the newcomer? Was this number thirteen?

"Who are you?" Shikamaru asked, trying to keep his voice from shaking.

"Let's get to that later. Why don't you tell me your name first?"

"Why do I have I have to go first?"

There was a small sigh, and Shikamaru tried again to place where he might have heard this man before. He sounded familiar, but it was impossible to tell if he actually knew him, or if he was just stretching for something to comfort him.

"Listen, I promise I'll explain later. We're in the same situation, you and I. They captured me too."

At this the young Nara perked up. Another captive. This was his chance to figure out what they wanted from him. "Are you from Konoha too?"

There was a pause, and then, "You're from Konoha?"

"Yes. Are you?"

"Uh, well, you could say that."

"Listen, my name is Nara Shikamaru. I'm a Chunin under command of Lady Tsunade supervised by Jounin Asuma Sarotobi. Asuma-sama was with me when I was captured. He will come to save us. In the mean time, I can help you if you tell me what we're up against."

His heart was pounding. After the terrifying shock of being stripped, fondled, and completely ignored he finally saw a little hope of analyzing and solving the problem. However, when the man across from him chuckled dryly, his stomach flipped. His new found friend certainly didn't sound confident.

"You're very formal, and professional, Nara Shikamaru. You must be Nara Shikaku's son. He taught you well."

"You know my father?"

"I knew of him, and I worked with him a couple of times."

"Just who are you?"



"Here's what I've learned so far-"

"You're avoiding the question."

"Do you want to know or not?"

Shikamaru ran his hand through his hair, which he was disgruntled to find was still down, and sat up, shivering as his bare ass brushed the cold floor. He knew that voice. He'd heard it before, but whoever the man was, he didn't want to give up his identity just yet, and there was nothing the shadow nin could offer that would change his mind. Sitting cross legged he propped an elbow on his knee and leaned his chin against his hand. Better to know than to be left in the dark, literally and figuratively.

"Fine. What are we up against?"

"I've been here for almost two months, or maybe longer... it's very hard to tell time here. Akito and his gang still haven't told me exactly why I'm here, but I've been piecing it together bit by bit. As far as I can tell, Akito employes rogue ninja for his purposes, and he doesn't allow them to wear their hiattae, so there is no way to tell what villages they are from. However, from their mannerisms and speech patterns, I've noted that Daouma is most likely from Sunagakure, Tasku is from Iwagakure, and Shiro is probably from Kirigakure."

"The Sand, the Stone, and the Mist... that's an odd grouping."

"Akito most likely scouts them out for their rather, uh, twisted and sadistic natures."

"So he likes their torture techniques?"

The man sighed. "Tell me this. Akito obviously stripped you. Did he, or anyone in his group, do anything else to you?"

For once the Nara found himself glad that he was engulfed in darkness, because the blood rushing into his face was causing him to blush worse than he ever had before. "Why, uh, why are you asking?"

"Yeah, I thought so. How old are you, anyway?"

"Um, I'm thirteen."

"Thirteen? Fuck!"

"Why? What's my age have to do with anything?"

"You're just a little young for what you're about to have to deal with, and honestly kid, I'm not sure I'm the type of person to carry you through this."

At this Shikamaru growled. "Look, I don't know who you are or who you think I am, but I am a chuunin of Konohagakure. I earned this title. I've trained with Ibiki Morino in torture techniques. I can handle this, especially when I know that my sensai will come for me."

Another faceless chuckle, this one darker than before. "First off, I know Asuma Sarutobi. He's a great ninja, and I'm sure that he's gotten better since I last saw him, but he's out of his league here. He's not going to be enough to take on this group by himself. Second, I'm also famillar with Ibiki, and there's no one better in all of Konoha you could have trained with. But you're not ready for this."

Fear crept deep into Shikamaru's veins, and suddenly the temperature in the room dropped several degrees. He rubbed his hands up and down his arms to chase away the goosebumps that were forming. This man was obviously a ninja of Konoha, to know as much as he did. He must be a Jounin, or perhaps even an Anbu, to speak so knowledgable about his father, Asuma, and Ibiki. Anbu actually made more sense, as he didn't want to reveal his identity. Shikamaru could have heard his voice before in passing and never realized it. For him to be so sure that with the two of them and help on the way that they wouldn't be able to handle it, then he was in real trouble.

"So why don't you tell me what I'm in for?"

"Brave. I admire that. As far as I can tell, Akito has a special type of clientale. You were captured because someone has taken an interest in you, and it's Akito's job to prepare you for them."

"Let me get this straight. Someone's seen my skills, like in the chuunin exams, and they want me to turn my back on Konoha and work for them, so they've hired Akito to train me."

"Not exactly. Whoever wants you, it's not for your skill. It's for your body."

Shikamaru felt himself blanch. This man couldn't be serious. But then... Then it all made sense. That's why Akito was worried about the shape of his body, and why he'd had Shiro excite him, why he wanted to see his "length". The young ninja felt his stomach turn as he quivered all over. When he finally spoke, his voice broke. "What are they going to do to me?"

"They're going to train you to be their client's, well, to be their own personal geisha, of a sorts. Their methods are, very effective. Honestly the only reason I've held up so long is because I've been through worse. Prepare yourself to be molested and raped repeatedly. Every orifice will be filled and stretched in ways you can't even imagine. Akito will break your body, your spirit, and your mind."

At first the words just barely brushed Shikamaru's conciousness. But then they began to settle in. Tasku and Daouma held him effortlessly while Shiro worked her mouth along his member, and as much as he struggled, it hadn't mattered at all. These people were going to hold him down and violate him, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He still had every faith that Asuma would come for him, and that he would succeed, but not before Akito got to him. A single tear traced it's way down his cheek as he realized how hopeless his immediate future was. There was no saving his innocence.

"Shikamaru? You're being kind of quiet. Are you alright?"

Another tear, then another, and before he knew it the Nara was crying. He brought his knees up and hugged them to his chest. He knew as a ninja he should be strong, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. When it came down to it, he was just barely a teenager, and nothing could have prepared him for the nightmare his "roommate" had described and apparently lived through.


A hiccup, then a sob, and finally Shikamaru was crying uncontrollably. Never before had he felt so helpless. All his genius and strategizing meant nothing here. During their first meeting the only acknowledgement Akito had given him was that his questions were annoying, and then he'd had him gagged. Now it was apparent that they didn't want information out of him. Their only purpose was to break him and remold him, and if this was their methods he was already defeated.


"What... what can we do? What, uh, what do we have to do to survive?"

Another sigh. Beneathe his terror Shikamaru could swear he heard a rustling of cloth and then he felt the warmth of the other man's body as he came closer. Then there was another movement and suddenly there was a heavy blanket on his shoulders being wrapped around him. The man's hand fell lightly on the top of his head, perhaps in a gesture of comfort, and in a moment of weakness Shikamaru leaned into the semi embrace, surprising the only friend he had in this crooked underground. Carefully an arm wrapped around him.

"Look, there's a ryokan mat that's big enough for both of us. Why don't we rest for now? Akito will come for us soon enough. You should get what peace you can."

"How have you survived?'

"I've been through worse."

"You said you would explain yourself. Please, tell me who you are."

"Kid, you really don't want to know."

"Just tell me."

There was a stretch of silence, so long he thought the other man wouldn't answer. Finally one word nearly brought his world to a screeching halt.



They had looked everywhere. They had scoured the onsen, the ryokan, the bar-b-que bar, the market, and the library, everywhere visiable that Shikamaru might have disappeared to. Team Ten didn't normally make a habit of splitting up, but with such a care free mission, no one had seen any harm in Shikamaru indulging his cloud watching habit on his own. They weren't even that alarmed when they didn't see him at dinner, or before they turned in. True, they were officially on a mission, but it was nothing important, and the shadow nin was well known for spending hours watching the sky, or even falling asleep as he did so. But, when Asuma had awoken at nearly four thirty in the morning and there was still no sign of his genius student, he knew there was a problem. Immediately the team set out to find him, but nearly twelve hours later there was still no sign of him.

Ino was nearly in tears. Images of Shikamaru in the academy, as a carefree, lazy brat flashed through her mind. She remembered how much she hated him when they were first placed on the same team. She always felt that he was secretly laughing at her because of her rivalry with Sakura and her obsession with Sasuke. But somehow the bastard had grown on her. He was like a brother to her. They constantly teased each other, but they were always there for each other when the chips were down. Now, Shikamaru was in trouble, and she didn't know what to do to help him. She didn't even know where he was, or if he was even still alive.

Choji was at his wits end. Shikamaru was his best friend, and had been ever since their childhood. When everyone else had only seen a hefty kid that was too slow to play ninja, Shikamaru had seen something else, and without a care or thought to anyone else, he had followed and befriended the Akamichi, just like his father had predicted only moments before. Whenever the world knocked him down, Shikamaru was there to pick him up. He helped him laugh off the cruelty of the world, and was always there to guide him when he doubted himself. Why hadn't he just gone with him? What could have happened to him? Was he still alive? He had to be. He just had to be.

But no one blamed themselves more than Asuma did. Asuma was their sensai, and a Jounin for God's sake. He knew better than to let his team split up while on a mission. He'd seen the results of such a fool hardy decision first hand, so how could he have made the same damn mistake? It was just a C ranked transport mission, something his team had done many times before, but that was no excuse for letting his guard down. They were ninja. There was always an enemy at their backs. And this time the enemy had taken his student right out from under his nose. But where did they catch him, and how. Everywhere they had looked, there where no signs of a struggle, no trails of blood, nothing to elude that Shikamaru had even been there.

Asuma wrung his hands before reaching into his pocket for a cigerette, but he stopped himself. He was too upset to smoke. His mind was racing with ideas. Shikamaru had to be alive, otherwise they'd have found a body or at least blood. But who had captured him and why? The Nara was a newly promoted chuunin. If they'd wanted information, they would have targeted Asuma, not Shikamaru. So what else could they want from him. Maybe they were trying to lure Asuma into a trap. If so, they'd picked a successful way to do it. Shikamaru was more than his student, he was his friend, and Asuma would die to protect him. That he'd been so careless as to let the boy out of his sight long enough to be captured would never stop haunting him, no matter how soon they found him.

As the remainder of Team Ten gathered in their sensai's room, sharpening kunai, and trying desperately to piece together a plan, Asuma laid out a map of the town and the surrounding area, "x"ing off the areas they had already searched and studying the paper to see what he was missing.

"So where do we look now, Asuma sensai," Ino asked, her usually bright voice dulled with a bitter resentment of the world and herself.

Choji didn't speak, but he listened, sharpening his weapon with precision.

"There's a small grove half a mile outside of town," the Sarutobi answered. "It's on top of a hill that supposedly has the best view of the town and probably of a cloudy sky. If there's anywhere Shikamaru would have gone, it's got to be there. We'll head out that way."

"You can if you want to, but it won't do any good. You won't find him on your own."

The three Konoha ninja straightened and turned sharply to face the intruder's voice. A man stood in the shadow of a far corner, though how he'd gotten there unnoticed was beyond comprehension. Team Ten brandished their weapons, but the man held up his hands in a gesture of peace. He was wearing a brown cloak, Anbu issue, with the hood pulled close over his face. Asuma studied him carefully. He'd heard that voice before.

"What do you know?" Choji asked with a brash voice, surprising Ino.

"I know a little bit about the group who took your friend. I've been studying them for a couple of months now. They took my master, and I followed their trail here. It's been rather difficult. They're masters at masking their 'scent', so to speak."

Recognition hit Asuma and suddenly his trench knives were brimming with chakra. "You... What do you want?"

With a smirk, the man removed his hood, momentarily brushing back his silver bangs. With two fingers he adjusted his glasses as he chuckled mirthlessly. "My, aren't we a little on edge?"

Ino blinked, her blue eyes swimming with confusion at her sensai's reaction. "I remember you. You helped us out in the chuunin exams."

"Don't be fooled, Ino," Asuma said without taking his eyes off of the intruder. "This man is a traitor to our village. He works with Orochimaru."

Kabuto grinned.

As Choji and Ino began gathering their chakra in their hands, ready to attack at a moments notice, their sensai continued questioning. "Tell me what you want now."

"I've already told you. The group that took your ninja, took my master. I've been trying to find them for several weeks. Their recent attack lead me here. How long has he been missing?"

"How the hell are we supposed to trust you?" Ino spat before the Sarutobi could asked. "How do we know you didn't take him?"

"I promise to explain, but you need to listen carefully. We don't have much time to pick up their trail before they move on."

Asuma frowned, lowering his knives a fraction of an inch. "What exactly is going on?"



The name echoed through his mind, memories of the day he first heard that name flooding back to him. Konoha under attack, his friends helpless, and himself staring down nine blood thirsty Jounin, sure his life was over. This was the man that had order it all, that had killed his Hokage, and that taught him the meaning of the word loss. Now this same man's arm was around him, and they were both prisoners of some sick and perverse business that was training them to be whores. It was surreal.

"...I think I'm going to vomit."

"Try to aim for the floor and not the blankets, all right? I'd prefer to sleep on clean linens."

Shikamaru didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but even with his sudden revulsion he couldn't pull himself away from the embrace. It was the only comfort he had, and God help him, he was going to cling to it.

"No wonder Asuma doesn't stand a chance, if they were strong enough to capture you."

"Don't feel too hopeless. They slipped something in my drink. If anything I should be embarrassed."

"So what do we do from here? What happens next?"

"They'll come for us in the morning. I don't know if they'll keep us together or not. I suppose what they do to you will depend on whether or not they're prepping you for a male or female client."

"And which one are they preparing you for?"

"...Male, I assume."

"Grand," the shadow nin sighed and wiped at his wet cheeks. "So how did you piece this together?"

"Mostly from little bits of conversation I overheard, and of course, what they were doing to me."

"You talk as though it doesn't affect you at all."

"I told you, I've been through worse."

There were no words to describe the images and ideas flying through his mind, so he didn't try. Instead, when Orochimaru took him by the arms and stood, he didn't fight him. Slowly he allowed himself to be lead to the futon and, wrapping the blanket tight around himself, he sat down. Sleep was creeping up fast on him, and as the adreneline rushed away from him he was finding it harder and harder to stay awake. He should be terrified, he should push away from Orochimaru, he should be plotting his escape. But all his plans fell flat as his energy drained away. It was too much to take in, and keeping his brain in overdrive for this long was turning his once brilliant mind to mush. He did need to rest.

"How come I can't use my chakra?" He asked sleepily. "It's like I never learned how to pull it before."

"I know. I've got the same problem. I still don't know how they're doing it."


"Just sleep, Shikamaru. Enjoy it while you can."

Orochimaru might have said more, or he might not have said anything at all. Reality blurred in his drowsy state, and as the Snake Sannin laid his head on a soft pillow, sleep finally overtook him.