*I just noticed there is a similar thread posted in the library that overlapped a part of this thread. ^^;; Hopefully, this thread would still contribute to some points not mentioned. **And some ideas about Kurenai are not new. Credits to those who brought them up. From clues given in past chapters, there is actually a way for both "king = Akatsuki's target" and "king = Kurenai's new child" to work out with some explanations/speculations. Shikaramu seems to understand the explanation behind Azuma's out-of-norm behaviors after knowing who is the king. (A=Azuma; S=Shikamaru) That's why ...what ? Shikamaru might have realized something upon knowing who the king is, something that explains Azuma's behavior that he was confused about. Spoiler: Shikamaru's flashback (only read this part if you need to review the manga) (Chapter 321 On their way to Asuma's final mission) S: Asuma-sensei, what's your relationship to that Chiriku? A: Why the sudden interest? S: You usually get through 2 packs a day but you haven't touched a cigarette for the last 2 days. Every time you quit smoking, something is going on. When you play Shogi, it's pretty obvious what is going on. You quit when the thrid died, too. A: ... me and Chiriku were two of the 12 protectors of Konoha. Yeah, we were like buddies. ...I appreciate your concern. But I didn't stop because I was upset. S: ! A: I stopped because I couldn't afford any distraction, and neither can any of you! (Chapter 316 Shogi game) A: Sometimes you have to make moves like this... to protect the king in dealing with stronger opponent. It's like they say to make sacrifice. S: Did something happen? A: Nah, it's nothing it's just that after all these times, I finally realize the importance of Gyoku. When Gyoku is taken, it's the end of the game. If these are shinobi in Konoha, you are knight... Me? I am just a pawn. A: Do you know who would be the king? S: Hokage? A: I used to think so, too, but then I found out I was wrong. S: Then who is it? A: You will know when the time comes. So what behavior(s) of Azuma was explained by knowing the king he was talking about? It might be one or more of the followings: Why did Azuma quit smoking? For Chiriki: -He might be worried simply because the enemies are too strong. (explicitly stated in Chapter 321.) -He might realize it will eventually come to him (Azuma is also on the bingo book. Kakazu mentioned Azuma worth a price, too, just like Chiruku. In fact, all former 12 guards are probly all on the bingo book.) For the kid: Inhaling smoke during pregnancy leads to complications. (Don't crack up yet.) Other doubts from Shikamaru: Why did he play chess like that? Why did he sacrifice himself? Why did he take the initiative move of invading into an enemy's territory, even knowing the enemy might be stronger than himself? To protect? To protect whom? Who is the king? The king are the importance pieces, the one to be sacrificed for. And Azuma used to misinterpret it. In one of the earlier flashback, it's strongly implied that the third showed him who the king is, which Azuma did not realize back then. Leaving Konoha behind and disregarding those in Konoha are probably something the third is not happy about. He wanted Azuma to stay in Konoha, and become one proud member of Sarutobi clan. "You widen your wings they surround and protect the whole Konoha. You are willing to sacrifice yourself for the future of us. I am proud of being in such an honorable clan. I'd do the same if I have to," he would say. Let's going back to Azuma's misinterpretation again. Not only Hokage, he used to think those who are in leader's position is the king, the important pieces. That's probly why even after he left Konoha, he went on serving as one of the 12 guards, protecting the fire lord. But after all these years, he finally realized the meaning of being a hokage. It is not about being the important piece himself that determines the fate of the village, but to serve the people in the village who are the heart of the village itself. After all these years, he eventually realized he should return to his root, and now, finally, he did the same thing the third did to serve Konoha and its people, generations after generations. What made him thinking about the people behind his time all of a sudden? Did he just learn that he was gonna become a dad, that's why he started to think for the future generation? Here are some speculations this idea is based on: -In the hospital, Kurenai seemed to have something important to tell Azuma when he was in the hospital visiting Kakashi. Although Azuma wanted to tell Kakashi something in the first place, he totally ignored Kakashi and went after Kurenai after she appeared. What's he gonna tell Kakashi we are not sure. But KURENAI obviously had something important to tell Azuma. (Pregnancy test result? ) -During Azuma's last mission that would cost his life, the scenes switched back and forth between Kurenai and Azuma, putting emphasis on Kunerai. What can we draw from this connection? It may be a bit too emotionally involved if we are just gonna see Kunerai's reaction. - - What he might have said: (Chapter 328) *replays* A to S: Your mind is sharp and your sense of becoming a ninja is very good. You can even become a Hokage one day, although with you as a leader you'd probly just moan... A: You wanna know who the king is ? I'll tell you... who it is... Come closer. *Shikamaru listens* A: The king are your future sons ... and my son to be born ...whom I am willing to die for... The future of Konoha, please take good care of him. (Hopefully one day he would realize this and feels proud of being born in Sarutobi clan.) *Shikamaru surprised* S: Asuma... you.. That's why... - - Alternative explanation: Akatsuki-Naruto centric Lots of people think the king refers to something more literal, such as the Jinchuuriki the Akatsuki longs to obtain, and pointed out the metaphor from Shogi to illustrate the point that Naruto = king: the game is over after they obtain the jinchuuriki. This does make some sense. As you can see, Azuma revealed the secret of Jinchuuriki ear to ear to Shikamaru, implying it was something secretive. However, it's a bit too long of an explanation Azuma has to provide before his death. He needs to explain what's Akatsuki and why are they after Naruto. If any information is unclear, it would leads to question marks, not immediate surprise and realization. Also, if it's about Akatsuki and Naruto, Azuma is not the only person who knows this. Tsunade who ordered them to chase after Akatsuki has already know this information. Why would Azuma waste this chance to tell Shikamaru something he would eventually learn when the time comes? The talk is quite personal. Azuma whispered it to only Shikamaru...Shikamaru responded with "Azuma... you..." It highlights Shikamaru's understanding of Azuma and Azuma's trust on Shikamaru. An informational talk on Naruto is just a bit unfit and out of sync with the sentimental speech he gave before, and his last wish right after. The preview of 329 titled "the target of Akatsuki". Looked like it also pointed to the king = Naruto idea. He is Akatsuki's target! Don't you think it's a bit too soon for the king to be literally spelled out right in the next few chapter, right after it's left with a sense of mystery? I think it's meant to distract our attention back to something we've already know, such as Naruto = the target. Or other stuff Akatsuki wants, such as what they want out of monk ninja. Whatever. They would be exciting chapters. But the truth of Azuma's final words is left unsaid until later. Hybrid of the two explainations I am not discrediting the Akatsuki-centric speculation. The Shogi game from Chapter 316 indeed reflects what literally happened. The pawn is about to be sacrificed to promoted Rook. Spoiler: Pawn = Azuma as he stated himself. Rook = a character Hidan's name (Kakuzu's name is also another piece.) Promoted Rook = wider range of move = more crazy Hidan? It foreshadowed what literally happened to him. (see above spoiler) But what was going on in Azuma's mind was about Konoha, its people and its future, using Shogi as a metaphor. The Shogi game itself coincidentally unfolded Azuma's future. (symbolism!) But what's on his mind was the future generations of Konoha that he wanted to protect. And I believe that's what he wanted to tell Shikamaru. Hidan and Kakuzu could surely be a proximate motivation. To protecting Konoha and its future generation, he was willing to be sacrificed under crazily strong enemy, such as Akatsuki, to prevent them from getting into Konoha and getting what they want. However, eventually it would hit on the this point: the ongoing mission of saving future of Konoha, including his son and everyone else, generations after generations.