"Itachi!"

The jet-black haired boy groaned softly as his eyelids slid up at the noises buzzing at his ears. He turned away from the sunlight, about to close his eyes to seek comfort from the darkness again when the door to his room burst open. The collusion of the doorknob against the wall created a stinging ring echoing against his eardrums.

A pair of glassy eyes in the colour of midnight snapped open and narrowed softly at the cheerful long haired blond who looked about the age of eighteen standing at the doorway.

"Hey! Don't invite yourself in!" An irritated voice shouted before a younger boy about the age of fifteen with raven short hair rushed in after the blond.

"Oh chill out, Sasuke, un." The blond spoke in some regional dialect and brushed the younger boy aside. He made his way to the dark haired boy who was now up in a sitting position with his long hair scattered over his back. He held an extremely tired expression…or it could be due to the lines beneath his eyes that created that illusion.

"Deidara…" Itachi mumbled, clearly not pleased with his childhood friend's intrusion.

"What are you sitting around here?" Deidara said as he walked over to the bed, shoved his hand under the sheet of blanket and grasped Itachi's paler wrist. "Today's the start of school. Don't tell me you forgot about the promise, un!" After making his point, Itachi was reluctantly yanked out of his bed with Sasuke protesting on the sideline. Before Itachi knew it, he was thrown into the bathroom of his own house with the door slamming shut behind his back.

It was a long morning for the young prodigy.

After splashing his face with ice cold water, Itachi finally found himself waking up from the drowsiness. When he returned to his room, he discovered that it was only six in the morning – meaning he had only slept for three hours. He breathed out softly and turned to his closet. He casually pulled out a random set of clothes and began changing out of his pajama; which only consisted of a black baggy shirt and shorts. He pulled a black medium sized T-shit over his jean and pushed his hands out of his sleeveless, grayish-white windproof jacket. He didn't bother zipping his jacket and just let the clothe hang loosely at his shoulder blades. He fixed his jacket's hood before pulling his silky black hair together into a low ponytail.

Itachi glanced at the mirror to see the length of his own hair. He knew he should really cut it, but there was never the time. After grabbing his wristwatch, Itachi made his way down the stairs where he found Sasuke in the dining room with Deidara eating the sandwiches his little brother made. "Morning, aniki." Sasuke greeted as Itachi made his way over. He looked down, taking in the sight of his little brother in his new school's uniform.

"Do you want me to walk you to school, Sasuke?" Itachi asked as he opened the refrigerator and began pouring out a glass of milk.

"I'm fine." Sasuke mumbled. He was clearly annoyed and embarrassed by how his older brother was still treating him like a baby. "I'm not a kid anymore."

Itachi came to the table and set the milk before his brother. Deidara glanced at Sasuke. For the first time since he barged into the house, the blond noticed Sasuke's uniform.

"That's right!" Deidara gasped as Itachi seated himself by his plate of sandwich. "Sasuke's now in a high school heh?" The blond paused in a moment of thought. "Konoha High was it? The one Itachi attended? Time really flies by, un." Deidara picked up his sandwich and took another bite into his food.

"And?" Sasuke snapped impatiently at the outsider who clearly does not belong at their table. "Why are you here?"

"Your brother promised to take me around the university and show me to my new classes, un." Deidara said, quite excited for his new life.

"You're…in the arts major." Sasuke managed to vaguely recall. "Aniki is in Chemistry." He stated the obvious, trying to point out how it doesn't make sense why his brother have to show Deidara to his departments when the said person isn't even familiar with it. When Sasuke noticed the look Deidara was giving him, he twitched. Itachi just nibble at his breakfast, paying no mind to the two.

After a moment of silence, Deidara broke out a mocking smirk. "What? Upset that I'm taking your brother away, un? You still got quite the brother complex, Sasuke." With a swift movement, Deidara snatched his sandwich from his plate and thrust it up just as a fork was hurled through the air and pierced through the bread. Sasuke parted his lips to speak when Itachi shot him a look.

"Sasuke." Itachi said sternly. There was a hint of warning dripping within his voice and Sasuke would have to be a fool not to notice.

Sasuke kept his glare on Deidara. "He's the one–"

"You know better manners than to throw a fork like that." Itachi spoke in a hard tone that left no room for argument.

Sasuke, knowing better than to go against his brother, sank back into his chair. While still glaring at Deidara beneath his bangs, Sasuke mumbled a soft "sorry".

"Deidara, you stop it as well."

"I know, I know." Deidara snickered as he removed the fork from his food. "Speaking of which, do you think my luggage has arrived?"

"It should already be in the dorm." Itachi replied. "You can check in after your classes."

Just when Itachi was about to resume to enjoy his breakfast, they were interrupted by a series of rings from their doorbell.

"Sasuke!" A familiar voice came through the window as Sasuke climbed onto his feet.

"I'm going." Sasuke said as he quickly drank the glass of milk Itachi gave him and set his dishes into the sink.

"So early? There's still two and a half hours before your school." Deidara said as he glanced to the clock hung at the white wall of the kitchen.

"I promised to meet up with some friends." Sasuke said as Itachi followed him to the door.

"Sasuke!" Came another call that was followed up by dozens of nonstop ringing.

"Stop it you dobe." Sasuk snapped, flinging open the door to reveal the yellow haired teen whose ocean blue eyes were smiling up at him.

"Come on, Sasuke! I bet Sakura-chan and the others are there already!" The boy shouted with excitement that could rival Deidara's. Then, the boy's sparkling eyes drifted away and landed upon Itachi. "Oh, hey Itachi!" He smiled wider as Itachi walked over and ruffled the boy's soft golden locks.

"Good morning, Naruto-kun." He said with a very faint smile that he would only reveal to three people in this world.

Sasuke, Deidara and this hyperactive troublemaker.

"Yo, Kyuubi kid!" Deidara greeted, walking up to Itachi and rested his elbow onto the older Uchiha's shoulder. "It's been a long time, un."

Kyuubi kid. That was the nickname Deidara gave to Naruto for the three claw-like scars on each side of the boy's face (which he called whiskers) and his mischievous nature.

"Urk…" Naruto backed away a little out of reflex. "Why are you here?" His smile instantly dropped. He has never really gotten along with Deidara since the older boy made it his job to tease (bully) him.

"Hey now, that's a rude way to greet your senior." Deidara reached out his hand and flicked Naruto's forehead.

"Gah!"

It was a gesture the blond copied from his raven friend, though altered slightly. He always enjoyed doing it to his favourite blonde junior.

"Hn. Usuratonkachi." Sasuke mumbled as he slipped into his shoes.

"Sasuke." Hearing Itachi's call, Sasuke turned, only to be poked by two familiar pale fingers.

The two crouch down, both of them holding onto their reddened forehead and wincing from the pain.

"Give my regards to Kakashi-san if you see him." Itachi smiled down faintly at his little brother.

"Tch…I get it." Sasuke replied.

Naruto laughed mockingly at Sasuke who got the same treatment as he did, which made the calmer boy snapped back at the blond with his usual insults. Although both boys seemed unpleased by how they were still treated like children, the older teens didn't miss the obvious happy look on their faces.

It was a blessed expression containing the happiness of having someone who cares for them.

"They're still kids after all, un." Deidara chuckled lowly so only Itachi could hear. Removing his elbow from Itachi, Deidara made his way back to the kitchen only to see the time they had left.

"Hurry up, Sasuke!" Naruto rushed as Sasuke grabbed his bags.

"I'm off, aniki." Sasuke said, giving Itachi a last look before he stepped out of the house and followed Naruto away.

Itachi watched the two boys as they hurried across the street. Once they were out of sight, he turned, about to close the door when Deidara literally ran into him.

"Come on Itachi! At this rate we won't have time to take a tour in the school!" Deidara shouted, carrying both of their bags as he grabbed Itachi's wrist and forcefully dragged him out of the door.


"Itachi…"

"…"

"I said I was sorry, un." Deidara mumbled as they moved up one space in the line-up. "I didn't know you hadn't eaten since last noon. You should have told me if you didn't finish your breakfast." Deidara said guiltily, but Itachi still didn't respond.

"May I help who's next please?" The McDonald worker called as Deidara walked up with Itachi trailing behind.

"Er…what do you want, Itachi? It's on me." Deidara asked, but the second those words left his lips, he realized that he had asked a rhetorical question.

Deidara's eyes trailed to the menu.

"I'll have a…"

The minute he turned back to the cashier, his gaze dulled. He stared at the hearts dancing in her eyes, then to Itachi who was standing behind him with an uncaring look.

"Hey!" Deidara called, waving his hand to snap the lady out of trance. "Can I take my order?"

"O-oh! Yes! Of course!" She blushed as Deidara told her his selection.

"Combo?" As she asked; that fan girlish gaze of hers never leaving Itachi. Deidara just rolled his eyes, wondering why he has to put up with this every time they come into a restaurant.

"Sandwich only, and take out." Deidara said before handing her the cash.

"So…um…are you two in high school?" The lady suddenly asked with a faint blush dusted over her cheeks.

Deidara glanced at her.

"No, we're in university."

"Oh! So am I!" The lady said happily. "Which universities are you two from?"

"Akatsuki." Deidara replied in a bored tone. Then all of the sudden, everyone within the radius of hearing range became strangely silent.

"Aka-Akatsuki?" The lady whispered with some difficulties. "That Akatsuki?"

"Are there any other Akatsukis, un?" Deidara asked. He couldn't help but picked up some whispers behind them as the lady blushed in different shades of red.

While the woman seemed to be in her own world, another worker (fortunately a male) walked by and placed Deidara's order onto the counter.

"Oh…I see…" She whispered dreamily at Itachi before quickly glancing back to Deidara.

"So are you two…" she hesitated a little "…going out?"

Deidara blinked.

It took him a couple of seconds before the meaning of her words finally sank in.

Apparently, this lady has been so busy checking out his friend that his voice never even registered into her tiny brain.

"I'm a man!" Deidara growled. He snatched the paper bag that contained the burger he ordered and stomped out of the restaurant with Itachi trailing behind, leaving the dumbfounded woman to the next customer in line.

"…If you want to laugh go ahead and laugh, un." Deidara muttered displeasingly when he noticed an extremely faint glimpse of amusement hidden behind that emotionless mask of the Uchiha prodigy. He wasn't mad though. If anything, he was actually glad the Uchiha's mood has lightened, though he knew Itachi would never really get angry over such petty thing.

"Here, eat while it's still hot." Deidara pulled out the burger and tossed it to Itachi.

Itachi just kept his quiet as he unwrapped the burger and took a small bite into it.

"So I take it that you were working on experiment again and forgot to eat, un?" Deidara guessed. When he got a soft hn from his friend, he sighed. "You need to take care of your body." Deidara told him, but Itachi seemed was hardly convinced and Deidara knew why. Back when Itachi and Sasuke still lived in Kansai, Itachi had nearly saved Deidara from starvation and dehydration. At that time, Deidara was so caught up working on his sculptors that he had forgotten to eat or drink for two days straight. If it wasn't for Itachi – who somehow sensed something was wrong and found him, he probably wouldn't be even standing here.

"Say, Itachi…" Deidara started as he glanced to Itachi who was already half way through his burger. "Why was everyone so shocked when they heard Akatsuki?"

Itachi chewed slowly, making sure to properly break his food down before turning his eye to his oblivious friend. "Akatsuki is the world's largest institutes where it gathers and provides special training to all fields. It's been known for its intense courses and only the talented ones are selected." Itachi replied. He tried to shorten his words as much as possible since talking wasn't exactly his favourite.

"Heh…is it that amazing?" Deidara asked in surprise. When he caught Itachi's look, the artist smiled. "I just thought it would be fun to go to the same school as you, that's why I applied, un." He replied to those onyx gaze.

Just then, another question popped into his head.

"Say Itachi, why did you decide to go to Akatsuki?" He asked, finding it strange since he knew the prodigy have already graduated from another famous university in Tokyo at the tender age of fourteen. He never really bothered asking, but now that they were already in this topic, the artist thought he might as well give it a shot.

Unfortunately, Itachi didn't seem to feel like answering as he continued consuming his food in a mannerly way.

Knowing it wouldn't help to keep on pushing the topic, Deidara began entertaining himself with the passing scenery. After another couple of passing minutes, Deidara noticed more and more people of various ages beginning to gather. "There sure are a lot of people considering how early it is…un." Deidara observed. When he glanced up the hill, his blue bell eye immediately catches their destination.

Akatsuki.

The university was enormous, separating into various buildings that were linked together by sky bridges. From the outside, it looked as though it was made by chunks of steel and pipes thrown together at random places. The building itself gave off an ominous sensation yet with a mixture of unique futuristic style. When Deidara tore his gaze away, he noticed the eyes upon them for the first time. People began filing away, almost as though making a path for him and Itachi to walk through.

"What–?" Before Deidara could question his friend of the other students' behaviours, a wave of high pitch screams pierced his eardrums.

"Kyaaa! It's Itachi-kun!"

"Itachi-san!"

"Itachi-kun!"

Deidara looked around to females of all ages screaming out with hearts fluttering from their eyes. 'Heh~ So he's pretty popular here too…should have known, un.'Deidara thought to himself before suddenly catching some of the male blushing towards their directions as well.

At the sight, Deidara nearly shuddered and out of reflex stepped closer to Itachi. That seemed to be a bad move for that all the sudden; the fluffy atmosphere was suddenly heavy with bloodlust.

"Who is that woman?" A voice somewhere from within the crowd hissed.

Deidara twitched.

"Who does she think she is, acting so familiar with Itachi-kun?"

"Never seen her face before…she must be a freshman."

Deidara nearly gagged as he listened to the strange conclusions the women were getting to. He didn't know how these women's brains work but he has no interest in finding out. Why was it that just because he was walking beside the Uchiha that they would come to a conclusion of him being Itachi's girlfriend?

Sighing heavily, Deiara snuck a glance to Itachi who still held an apathetic look. Deidara turned his gaze back to his path, knowing that with women like these it's better to just ignore them all.

After a while of walk, Deidara was surprised when he actually made it to school in one piece despite all the glares burning through his back. Though there were just as much of Itachi's fans inside, they were only far away admirers. Unfortunately, that didn't mean that Deidara couldn't feel their heated glares.

"Ah…Itachi." A deep, husky voice spoke as Deidara glanced up to see a man walking up to them. He blinked, wondering if his eyes were playing tricks on him at the sight of the man. The man was…well…split coloured. The left side of his body was sickly white with a little tint of green in his skin and the other covered in black body paint. He wore a long sleeved shirt despite the warm summer air and baggy deep green pants. The man smile – or smirked, at Itachi before his golden eyes drifted and landed to Deidara.

"Oh? Who is this?" When he spoke again, Deidara couldn't help but noticed that his voice was different. This voice was higher…more…what do you call it?

Expressive.

Yeah, that's the word.

"Deidara." Itachi introduced. "He is a freshman in the arts department."

"Deidara huh?" The man eyed Deidara as a sudden spark of interest flashed in those sharp, amber irises. "Is he part of the Red Cloud?" Deidara blinked. Now where did he heard that name before?

Itachi answered with a quiet nod.

"Then that means he'll be with Sasori." The man smiled.

'Sasori?' Deidara thought, failing to notice that the voice had changed back into that deep, menacing one. Sasori…that was another name Deidara felt familiar with, but he couldn't put a finger on it.

"I'm Zetsu, from the Biology department." Deidara snapped out to see Zetsu smiled with his blackened right hand out for a friendly shake. Deidara hesitated, but took it nonetheless.

"I'm Deidara." Deidara tried to put on his best smile, but he didn't know if it came out right.

"Hurry up. We'll be late for class."

Deidara stared at the deep voice that slipped through Zetsu's lips just now.

"Alright, alright, I get it." Zetsu replied in a higher pitch voice.

Wait.

Did the man holding his hand talked to himself just now?

"Well then…"

"We have to go. See you later, Itachi, Deidara." Zetsu pulled away, waving at the two before hurrying down the hall.

"…We?" Deidara turned to Itachi.

"Zetsu has multiple personality disorder." Itachi said as though people with multiple personalities weren't such a big deal. He turned, pretending not to see Deidara's confused look and began walking off again.

Deidara stared at Itachi, then to Zetsu who had just slipped through a pair of door and vanished.

"So Itachi…" Deidara began as he remembered back to their previous conversations. "What is Red Cloud?" Itachi's onyx irises shifted and landed on Deidara. Clearly the blonde wasn't paying attention when they explained it to him during the orientation day.

"Red Cloud is the trademark of Akatsuki." Itachi began to explain. He clearly didn't want to – but his blond friend needed to know. "Those with talents around the world gather in Akatsuki…and the unique ones who held talents exceeding normal will be send into a special department call Red Cloud."

"That sounds fairly artistic, un." Deidara said happily, already liking the sound of this. "So this Red Cloud…what do we do there?" Deidara followed Itachi into the skyway where Deidara discovered that they were nearly twelve floors from the ground. He stared down at the scenery before noticing a droplet of rain sliding down the glass….followed by another, then another.

Deidara turned to the dark clouds looming over the land before he caught something from the corner of his eyes. Up above another building, there was a statue of a human's face. The jaw of the statue was apart with a long tongue running out as though trying to taste the raindrops. At the tip of the tongue, there was a person. A man with deep crimson hair grazing his shoulder was staring down the land, ignoring the droplets of water soaking into his skin.

"Hm?" Deidara paused in his steps as he eyed the man. Doesn't that guy know that if he falls from that height he'll die?

"Deidara." Deidara quickly turned at Itachi's call, finding his friend already at the other end of the bridge, waiting for him. Giving one last glance to the man, Deidara hurried his pace to catch up to Itachi.

"Hey Itachi. You haven't answered my question yet, un." Itachi gave a quick glance at Deidara. It took him a couple of seconds before he recalled Deidara's ignored question.

"We are in different programs; therefore I have little knowledge of your field of jobs. I will take you to someone who does."

"Jobs?" Deidara mumbled. Didn't Itachi meant project? After all, that is what you do in university, right?

They came upon a pair of steel doors where Itachi paused in his steps. Deidara just went on ahead and attempted to go through, but the doors didn't even budge a centimetre. "It's locked." Deidara said, turning to Itachi who merely walked over to a little black box in the wall. He pulled out a ring from his pocket – the very same ring that Deidara received during his orientation – and swayed it. With a sharp beep, Deidara hear a soft click from the other side and the doors automatically opened. The minute the two made their way through, the door slammed shut behind them, leaving no space for any third party to come through.

"The rings are used for that?" Deidara asked as Itachi turned to him.

"The ring has full accesses to all facilities within the school, including the staff rooms. Your student card is only able to access to your normal day classes."

Itachi led Deidara down a couple flight of stairs before reaching another door. Itachi held his ring at the sensor again and unlocked it. When Deidara stepped into the room, his eyes widened at the variety of materials; brushes, paints, woods, clay…everything any artists would ever need or want – all of them were hung on the white wall.

"Sasori." Hearing Itachi's call, Deidara snapped out to see Itachi carefully stepping over the equipment scattered over the floor and roamed around the room. He walked behind each of the steel tables and checked for any signs of life.

"Say, who is this Sasori, un?" Deidara asked out of curiosity. When he earned a strange glance from Itachi, he blinked and mouthed a "what". Itachi said nothing; finishing checking the last half of the room before making his way back.

"Sasori is one of the members of Red Cloud." Itachi said plainly once they exited the workshop. "He's a second year like me."

"Heh…so who else is in the arts?" Deidara asked casually, wanting to know what kind of people he will be meeting in his program. But when he didn't get a response, he turned to Itachi only to gasp in surprise.

"Only him?" He asked. Itachi just stared at their path, not sparing him glance. Deidara automatically took the silence as another yes. Now Deidara was really confused. He was expecting there to be much more. After all, this is the world's top university – as Itachi had claimed. "Then how many members are total, un?"

"Including you, eight–" Itachi almost immediately replied, but suddenly hauled himself to a stop.

"Itachi?" Deidara stared at the dark haired boy, finding strangeness within his behaviour. Itachi stared into a distance. When Deidara looked into those onyx irises, he saw a flicker of faint annoyance.

"Nine…" Itachi corrected before he continued leading the blond down the quiet hallway.