Thank you all for waiting patiently, but before we start let me take the time to respond to some of my reviewers:

BigFics: Yeah, my stories tend to get weak toward the beginning, but I'm sure you'll agree this chapter is a lot better than my last one. Don't worry, I'll make sure Shinobu will go through a great deal of confusion. Thank you for your constructive criticism.

Haruhiku: Thanks; hope your idea works out.

Myself: First, let me say that there is no proof that the character Nik is based on me. Secondly, I think you and I both have different views of what is a 'good fic'. However, I do thank you for bringing these thing to my attention, I will see if I can work in your concerns.

Chapter 2: Tensions Rising

It was a smooth period, Shinobu understood everything, she felt a lot more clear-headed, and thus could take in a lot more information, and could get a better understanding.

After school, she found Nik and Jake again. Jake, as expected, was giving Nik a hard time about something or other, and attempting to get him in a headlock.

Shinobu laughed, "What are you two going on about?"

Jake removed his arm from around Nik's neck, looking as fakely innocent as anyone ever possibly could "Nothing…" he decided to change the subject "What's this I hear about you being friends with Motoko Aoyama?"

"Yeah," Shinobu explained "I've known her for quite a while. She lives in the Hinata Apartments. I first met her when-"

But she stopped in mid-sentence. The first time she had met her was when she had Keitaro on the ground with a sword at his neck. Now she had gotten to thinking about Keitaro, after Nik had done such a good job of making her forget him.

She suddenly felt very confused.

"Something wrong?" asked Nik.

Shinobu hastily shook her head "No, I'm fine, but I think I'd better get going home." She began to walk home.

"Well, bye then." Nik said.

"Bye.' Shinobu said quietly.

"Put in a good word about me to Motoko!" requested Jake.

"I'll see what I can do!" and Shinobu walked off.

"Dude, you're a dumbass!" insisted Jake to Nik "Just tell her you like her already!"

"Easy for you to say!" Nik complained. Nik wasn't the most social person in the world, nor was he much of one to ever admit his feelings. This didn't particularly annoy Jake, but he never missed a chance to give Nik a hard time about something.

"Let's get outtalk here." Nik requested "I've heard the seniors are kind of hostile toward the lower classmen after school nowadays."

"Alright, let's go."

Shinobu got home safely, and was cheerfully greeted by Kitsune.

"Hey Shinobu." Greeted Kitsune.

"How are Su and Motoko doing?" Shinobu asked.

"Reasonably well." Reported Kitsune "They should be back up and at 'em by the day after tommora'."

"That's good." Shinobu began to walk towards her room.

Kitsune looked a little puzzled.

Haruka walked over to her "What's up?"

"It's Shinobu." Kitsune explained, "She seemed…pleasant, in a better mood than her usual self."

At this, Haruka too was puzzled.

It was obvious at dinner that Shinobu was acting, well, differently. She looked as confusing on the outside as she was on the inside. She was cheerful and light because of her new boost of confidence given to her by Nik, but also she still held some of the weight of Keitaro. She felt so confused, so torn in two, and so she looked on the outside.

The dinner table was even less chattery than usual with Su and Motoko's absence (they were resting.)

"So, how was school?" Haruka attempted to make conversation.

"It was great!" responded Shinobu.

This was surprising, The most they could ever get Shinobu to say about school was 'it was okay' or even the occasional 'it was pretty good'. 'It was great' was quite unexpected.

"Oh?" Haruka was interested "And what was so great about it?"

"Oh, nothing." Shinobu blushed a little, thinking about Nik.

"I knew it!" Kitsune exclaimed, "It's a boy isn't it? Shinobu's got herself a crush!"

Shinobu blushed a little deeper.

"Is this true?" asked Haruka.

"What?" Shinobu looked a little suspicious "No, nothing like that. I just met- never mind, I don't really want to talk about it."

"Fine, but you know we're going to find out sooner or later." Assured Kitsune.

Shinobu continued to eat, and then went up to her room to do her homework. Most of it was pretty easy being as she had grasped the concepts really well in class.

After that she preceded to lie in bed before going to sleep, thinking about Keitaro. She had felt so good before because of Nik, but now she wondered if she should.

Oh well, she thought; better not think too much on it. So she just looked forward to seeing Nik tomorrow. She envisioned his warm smile in her head, and this comforted her.

And so she went to sleep.

Another school day went by, rather similar to the last. Shinobu had now taken to hanging out with Jake and Nik at lunch, and before and after school. They were becoming fast friends.

But greater conflicts were rising at a more external level. There were conflicts between the freshman of the class of '08, and the seniors of the class of '05. The fact that Nik had beaten up a group of seniors didn't help the cause, and the seniors had it out for Shinobu, and they weren't too fond of Motoko or Jake as well.

Shinobi got some of the backlash of this walking home from school. Just as was her luck, seniors once again surrounded her. This seemed to be a pattern.

"You got a lot of guts having your friends beat up that group of seniors twice." Said a very angry senior of the group "Those were friends of mine, and they didn't appreciate that very much."

Shinobu recoiled in fear "What do you want?"

The senior grinned and punched his fist into his hand "Your bruises will serve as a warning to your friends, not to mess with us."

He pushed her against a wall and pulled back his fist. There were two seniors accompanying him, so it was going to be a slaughter, she had no chance of making it out.

Luckily, our hero was just in time. Before the senior could land his first punch, his arm was pulled back and twisted behind his back. He let out a cry of agony, and was let go of. He turned around.

"This is none of your-" he was aggravated at the site of Nik "You bastard!" he attempted to punch him in the face, but was blocked, and pushed away.

"What's your problem, man?" the senior asked with extreme attitude "You're just looking for trouble aren't you!"

Nik looked pissed, in his own subtle way, "Forgive me for not allowing you to hurt a good friend of mine, but it's not easy to watch."

"Mess with us and you're going down!" he threatened as he began to walk away "That's a promise!"

Nik clenched his fists "Picking on those who aren't as strong…makes me sick.," he mumbled just loud enough for Shinobu to hear him. He turned to her "You ok?"

Shinobu nodded, very happy "I thought for sure they were going to… oh, thank god for you Nik." She threw her arms around him in relief.

Nik blushed a little "Hey, knock it off would ya?"

Shinobu let go "Fine…"

"No, I don't mean, I'm just not much of one for physical contact." Nik realized he was just digging his hole deeper "Well, I'd better get home, see ya."

"Wait!" Shinobu insisted "You aren't going to make me walk home alone are you?'

Nik hadn't considered this, but making Shinobu go home was pretty rude, and dangerous.

"Tell you what," Nik proposed "How about you hang out at my house for a while?"

Shinobu was waiting from him to ask this "Sure, that sounds great."

So they walked a block or so until they got to Nik's house. The Hinata apartments were just a few blocks away, so Shinobu would hang out at Nik's house until it was safe to go home.

There was nobody at Nik's house. This was the way Nik liked it, he didn't like the possibility of people listening to his conversations, or watching him doing whatever he happened to be doing.

"Well if you don't mind I think I'll be going to my room to play some games."Nik went up the stairs, Shinobu following.

Nik sat on his bed, picked up his wireless Xbox controller and turned on his Xbox.

Shinobu sat next to him, looking at the TV "What are you playing?"

"An awesome game." Nik said enthusiastically "It's called Fable."

"Oh, I've heard of this game." Shinobu said "It's supposed to be really in depth."

"It is," Nik was pleased and a little surprised to hear she knew what Fable was "So you're a gamer are you?"

"Not really," confessed Shinobu "I try and keep up with games as best I can, but I don't own any major game systems."

"Well, you're welcome to hang out and play mine anytime you like." Nik assured.

"Thanks."

They played for a while, entertained by the millions of gags in the game. Then a knock came at the door.

"Come in!" Nik yelled.

A large guy with a jacket came in "Oh hi Shinobu." He was genuinely surprised to see her. He turned to Nik a sophomoric look in his eyes "What are you two doing up here?"

"Get your head out of the gutter!" Nik scolded, "What do you need?"

"Just giving you your CD back." Jake handed Nik a burnt copy of "American Idiot" by Green Day. "I ripped all the songs I needed." He looked around the room "Well, I'll let you two get back to what you were doing." He giggled and left.

Nik rolled his eyes.

Shinobu laughed, "He's kind of funny."

"Yeah, but his gags can get pretty old." Complained Nik.

Shinobu looked at the clock "I think the streets will be safe, I'd better get back home."

"Okay." Nik fare welled her "See ya tomorrow."

And so she left Nik's house, and began walking home.

Yeah, I know that last part was a little unnecessary, but I had to find some way to fit Jake in before the chapter ended! So review, and if it works out I'll try and muster all the creativity I can and make chapter 3.