Ren-sama's Note:

Thanks for the reviews and supports! Here's the next chapter! ˆoˆ

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Chapter 9

"Why didn't you tell us that you have a brother who studies here?" Kiba asked. They were already past the upset point. They were now just full of curiosity as to what type of person aniki was. I saw them here in the cafeteria and we decided that we wanted to have a table for ourselves once in a while. And so we were here, eating lunch merrily while chatting about the events of the day. And I was doing my best too to ignore the eyes that settled on me or people that openly gawk at me. Thankfully, I was seated beside the glass window that had a venetian blind and not on the aisle where people could approach me and ask too many questions, like what happened earlier before I saw Shikamaru and the others. Shikamaru was on my left, on the aisle. In front of him was Chouji and in front of me was Kiba.

"He didn't want me to talk about him." I answered Kiba's question. "I didn't even know he's a Knight! Imagine what I felt when I saw him on the stage earlier."

"And so you cried when you saw him beating his best friend to a pulp?" Shikamaru asked. I already told them almost everything, except aniki and Yahiko's little story last summer. I told them how the three of us always played with one another, because Yahiko was aniki's childhood friend and also classmate since elementary. The two of them were inseparable.

"Sorry we kind of said some bad things about him." Chouji apologized. I nodded, accepting it. I appreciated it that they were willing to learn more about him despite what they saw earlier.

"Aniki is really kind, even if he's annoying sometimes." I snorted playfully. "But I really like him."

"And what's the other thing that you want to tell us?" Kiba asked.

"Uh, oh yeah. What does it mean when you're asked to join a Knight's group?" I asked. "Does that mean I become one of the people who revered and fight for them?"

"A Knight asked you?" Chouji asked in deep surprise, totally forgetting his midair spoonful of rice. "Naruto, that's a huge honor!"

I scrunched up my nose. "Really? Actually, that Hyuuga or whatever asked me to be part of Sasuke's group, even to the point of asking me to a fight, though we both know that we don't like each other. And then Bee-san also came and asked me to join his group. I don't know why they ask me now. Is it because of my brother?"

"No, I don't think so." We all tried our hardest to fight our instincts to suddenly jump from our seats when a voice came from underneath our table.

Sai came out and, damn you Sai!, sat in between me and Shikamaru. "Sasuke already wants you to join our group since yesterday, after your fight with Yahiko. It's not because we found out that you're Nagato-san's younger brother, you know. Sasuke doesn't care about things like that." I noticed that Sai was more polite in using my brother's name than his own Knight's, just like how Neji was.

My friends actually made some positive comments about his explanation… but that's not the problem here!

"What were you doing under our table!?" I exclaimed loudly even though he was just beside me. He covered his ears the moment I talked and that pissed me off. He removed his hands now and smiled at me.

"I didn't know Nagato-san's brother can be so energetic, so different from him." He pointed out. And I knew he was dodging the question.

"Why were you under our table, Sai?" I asked more calmly.

He chuckled, not a fake this time. "I was playing ninja and sneaking on you, Naru-chan!"

"I told you not to call me that!" I hissed. I saw Kiba snickered at the name and I glared at him, which effectively shut him up. Well, I wanted to really ask what Sai was doing but I guessed he did answer. He was sneaking on us. But… I sighed. So many questions… "Anyway, please tell Sasuke that I won't join your group."

"You tell him, Naru-chan!" He said and, I didn't know if it was on purpose or not, he decided to give me a choking hug.

"S-Sai!" I immediately blushed. I was not used to being touched so intimately, except my brother or Yahiko, or my parents of course.

A clearing of throat caught our attention and we all turned to the aisle, where aniki was obviously glaring at Sai. I saw my friends tensed, though Sai didn't. He just let go of me and continued smiling. Yep, it's a fake this time.

"Aniki, what are you doing here?" I asked him.

"I was about to order lunch when I saw some pest trying to pester you." He said, totally lacking the emotion that suggested he was kind. I bit my lower lip. Aniki was always protective. Sai annoyed me but I didn't hate him so I kind of changed the topic subtly.

"Do you want to join us, aniki?" I asked and I had to hold back my laughter when Kiba, who was trying to appear busy by sipping his drink, coughed at it. Shikamaru eyed him meaningfully and Chouji patted him on the back. Sai openly laughed at him.

"No, I will eat in the quarter." He answered, still eyeing Sai. "And if the pest tries to pester you again, let me know." And he walked away, not caring at all about the cold atmosphere that he carried with him or the gawking and some drooling students eyeing him as he left. I swore if I was stronger, I'd beat those students. How dare they harass my aniki with their perverted eyes?

"Whew! That was close!" Sai made a show of wiping his forehead from invisible cold sweat. "Ah, that guy is so, so scary!"

"Are you mocking aniki?" I growled. I didn't like it when people talked about aniki in a negative way. That's one of the reasons why I often found myself in a fight in my previous school, because they often insult people who studies in Konoha Gakuen.

Sai chuckled. "Of course not. Anyway, I'd better be leaving now. I was just asked by Sasuke to buy him lunch, and now I was stuck here."

"Whose fault do you think that is?" Shikamaru asked boldly. And he's the one who asked me not to mess with Sasuke's subordinates. How model-like, Pineapple head. Sai merely chuckled before he stood up.

"You'll be one of Sasuke's subordinates soon. I assure you that, Naru-chan." He smiled sweetly. You fake! I can see that you're faking it, Sai!

"Hey, don't decide for him," Kiba was the one who talked. Now I'm starting to doubt that my friends aren't troublemakers. "Naruto has his own right to decide."

"He's just stubborn. But Sasuke is more stubborn than you." Sai is still smiling. "He does not take no for an answer. You will be his." Somehow the last sentence sounded a little off than the rest of the conversation; though I wonder what Sasuke can do to make me become his subordinate. I hope he won't use aniki against me. I'd never forgive him if he did.

And Sai left.

I sighed. "Somehow this day is becoming weirder and weirder."

"You can't be any more right." Shikamaru yawned. "This is becoming more and more troublesome."

"Now that I think about it, the two of you have the same surname." Kiba mused, looking totally surprised. Obviously he is talking about aniki and me. "Why didn't I think of that before?" He sighed. "Though no one actually realized that the two of you were related since he's a redhead and you're a blonde. And you look all rich while he looks like a gangster."

Chouji nodded in agreement before I could even react to the slight insult to aniki. "Total opposites."

"They have the same eye color. They have the same accent. They have the same body built, a little muscled though slender." Shikamaru opposed, speaking with a casual tone. "They have the same aura when they are angry. And they have the same stance when fighting. And they have the same strength, being as fast as a flash." I blinked at him. I always thought that aniki and I are really polar opposites. But I guess we have many things in common than we both realized. And it's thanks to Shikamaru that I realized those things now.

I chuckled. "Thank you." He arched an eyebrow at me. "Well, I always thought that aniki and I were total opposites of each other, no matter how hard I try to be like him."

Chouji and Kiba shared a glance before Kiba spoke. "Naruto, we think that you're fine the way you are. There's no need to compare yourself to Nagato-sama. I'm sure he doesn't want that too." I smiled. Well, that was new.

"Anyway, these glances, gawking, and stares are getting too annoying. I want to get out of here." Shikamaru said and I muttered an apology. "You're not the one staring or gawking at us so it's not your fault."

"I bet they're wondering why the younger sibling of the great Nagato Namikaze hangs around losers like us." Chouji murmured, feeling totally pessimistic about what's happening.

"Well, I'm not a loser." Kiba scoffed. "If you think you are, then I don't give a damn. But don't include me in the loser section."

"I don't think any of you are, Chouji." I answered seriously, looking at Chouji. "You're my friends. Those people are just envious because they think that befriending me will make them closer to their Nagato-sama." Chouji brightened and Kiba nodded in agreement.

"Anyway, let's just ignore them and leave this place." Shikamaru stood up from his seat and we all followed. "Don't get into any more fights, Naruto." He warned before he and Chouji walked towards the location of their next class and Kiba and I walked the opposite direction.

After that, more and more people tried to get my attention in hopes that if they become my friends, they would be able to get closer to aniki too. Or at least that's what I think. You might think I'm much of a paranoid. But I can't help it. No one was willing to be my friend during my first and second day here, and now they are giggling at the sight of me. It makes me shudder inwardly.

"Man, you've become a total celebrity, Naruto." Kiba pointed as we walked. Both his hands were at the back of his head while he walked rather lazily.

"The celebrity is my aniki, not me." I answered, sighing. "I can't believe they really think that getting close to me is the same as getting closer to aniki." He shrugged as he yawned. I hate it when people gawk at me, and I shudder to think what those drooling females are thinking while their eyes continued to ravage me with their smoldering gaze.

"Anyway, Naruto." He patted me on the shoulder. "Try to get away from fights. Some Fighters are really trying to avenge themselves from your brother. They might think that one way to make your brother pay is to get you." I smiled at him before I nodded. Yep, Kiba was also a worrywart like Shikamaru and Chouji. "Be careful, man."

"Yeah, you too, Kiba." I waved at him before we parted. His next class was to the right while I was to go left. I continued walking despite the annoying stares and attempted flirting of some females. Man, they are getting more and more annoying by the second. I shudder to think what will await me inside the classrooms. And so I decided to go to the place I went to yesterday.

The grass was nice and I was clearly hidden from everyone because the bushes were thick. I lay on my back and closed my eyes.

"You're here again." A voice said. Man, and here I am trying my best to be hidden from sight. I opened my eyes and saw him. He was the guy from yesterday. Yep, the very beautiful guy from yesterday.

"You're… Haku, right?" I asked and he looked glad that I remembered. His long silky brunette hair created small waves as he nodded. He was really very beautiful, if I said so myself.

"And you're Naruto." He smiled. "Can I sit here with you?" I narrowed my eyes before I nodded. Well, I knew him even before everyone knew about my relationship with aniki or even before I fought against Yahiko, so I guess he doesn't have any ill intentions. Or so I hope. "Do you not trust me being so close?" He asked when I remained guarded.

I sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just that people keep on attacking me and… maybe I'm just getting paranoid." I lay on my back again and closed my eyes, contented at the peace and quiet despite the presence of another person. Haku's presence is warm and gentle. If he ever has any ill intention towards me, he is too good at hiding it. I sensed him leaned on the trunk just a foot beside me and relaxed.

We stayed quiet for a while, at least until he talked. "Do you mind if I ask some questions? I'm really curious about you, Naruto. I heard that many students are trying to get closer to you, not only because of your brother, but because two Knights asked you to join their side."

I heaved a sigh, a contented one. I knew Haku is invading my comfort zone, but he is doing it too gently that I almost don't mind. "What questions?"

"Um, perhaps, why did you stop Nagato-san earlier?" He asked quietly. "I can see that no one knows that the two of you are related at all. But you're earlier actions…"

"I don't want to answer that. It's too personal." I answered, still having my eyes closed. I expected him to get angry or upset, but he didn't. His aura still remained as relaxed as earlier, and just as warm and gentle. And then I decided to ask him a question of my own. "What do you think of aniki?"

He chuckled. "What an old way of calling your brother." I opened my eyes and looked at his gentle chocolate orbs. "Nagato-san is a very cold person when he's here in school. He doesn't talk much and is generally very quiet and cool. But despite that, he rose to the top when he was just a first year, or so I was told, and ruled everyone. He is feared by everyone because of his merciless actions. But many students revere him because he is generally quiet and is not arrogant." I laughed at that. Aniki is one of the most prideful people I know, next only to Minato and Kushina of course.

"You like Nagato-san." He pointed out. "It seems you share a very strong bond. It's obviously a very strong one, because Nagato-san never listened to anyone before. And yet he listened to you earlier. He stopped when you told him to."

"Aniki is kind. He just doesn't know how to express his emotions very well." I answered. It seems everyone really does fear him. No wonder he told me not to tell anyone of our relationship because it would be troublesome. And now I'm starting to see that it is. But I don't have any regret.

"I want to be your friend too, Naruto." He said. "Not because I want to be close to your brother or because I want to be popular or anything. I already want to be friends with you ever since yesterday. I want to be friends with you because I'm fond of you." I looked at him seriously. Did he seriously mean that? He is way too blunt about his feelings. Or does he have any ulterior motives. Ugh… Here I go again with the paranoia…

"Alright." I grinned at him. "Do you want to meet my friends too?" He was about answer when we were interrupted by the rustling of the bushes and a very loud shout.

"THERE YOU ARE! YOU THINK YOU CAN HIDE FROM ME!?" Ugh… I already knew the owner of the voice even before I saw his face. But before I could even react, Haku was already on his heels and was holding the intruder with a very tight grip. Konohamaru screamed in pain and I was immediately beside them.

"Haku, stop it!" I immediately grabbed Konohamaru from him and looked at the childish raven. "Are you alright?"

Konohamaru snorted. "Of course, Naruto! Look at this!" He showed me his earrings and I couldn't help but grin.

"Konohamaru! You've leveled up!" I chuckled as I gave him a choking brotherly hug. Haku watched us in confusion. I looked at him as put my arms around Konohamaru's shoulders. Yep, Konohamaru is shorter than me. And that is saying something because I always thought I'm short for my age. "Haku, this is Konohamaru. Konohamaru, that's Haku." Konohamaru crossed his arms over his chest and snorted. I arched an eyebrow at him and he started whining like a child.

"What? He just attacked me, Naruto! You can't expect me to be all so friendly!" He reasoned, though with some exaggerated movements.

Haku simply gave a casual reply. "If you haven't sneaked on us and suddenly blurted out some nonsense, then I wouldn't have attacked you, probably." I chuckled when Konohamaru looked like he was trying to think of a smart retort, in vain.

"Anyway," Konohamaru chose to ignore the second year. "Naruto, you liar! You promised to fight me yesterday if I guard the perimeter! But you disappeared!" Uh oh.

"Uh… I was called to the office, Konohamaru." I reasoned, but it didn't work. He was sulking. I sighed. I suddenly felt like an older brother trying to make his younger brother understand reason. I wonder if aniki had a hard time with me too when I was younger. "I wasn't lying. Look." I showed him my earring just to make it more realistic and I swore his eyes almost bulged out of his sockets.

"Naruto! You're D Class now!" He exclaimed. He then arrogantly smirked. "But I can still beat you to a pulp!" I heard a rustle of bushes and saw Udon emerged. He looks afraid for Konohamaru. He doesn't need to worry though. I'm fond of the boy. I won't hurt him. At least not too much… Heh.

"Oh really?" I played along. Konohamaru's eyes narrowed considerably at me before he decided to settle into an offensive stance. Haku chuckled at us and sat on his earlier position, leaning on the trunk, as he watched us with quiet amusement.

"I'll beat you and become a Knight, Naruto!" He shouted before he attacked so suddenly. Damn, how would beating me make him a Knight? I settled into a defensive stance, not really wanting to fight him seriously, and blocked all of his attacks. Konohamaru's attacks were seriously poorer than my last battle. Of course, that was to be expected since my last opponent was Yahiko. "Damn you, you're not taking me seriously!" He gritted his teeth, clearly frustrated that I was only blocking. I remembered when I used to say the same thing to Yahiko and aniki. I wonder if this was how they felt. I'm fond of Konohamaru and I don't want to hurt him. And yet, he expects me to.

I gave him a punch which held little power at all, or so I thought until he clutched his stomach tightly the part where I hit him, and knelt on the ground as he let out a small whimper. "Konohamaru?" I called. I don't want to continue a fight that I'm so not seriously into.

And then all of a sudden he stood up and grinned, acting as if nothing actually happened. "I'll definitely make you cry next time, Naruto!" I smiled. He let Udon help him walk away.

"You're very kind." Haku said from behind me. "That punch holds almost very little power." I looked at him and I saw that he looks amused. Well, I don't know when I started getting stronger, but I guess these everyday fights are helping a bit. "Anyway, I have a class. So, see you around, Naruto." He waved and smiled at me sweetly before he disappeared behind some bushes.

Well, at least I'd have the place all to myself for now. I lay on my back and closed my eyes again. Some peace and quiet…

"Naruto-kun!" Or so I hoped. I looked up and saw Lee running towards me. Oh Kami…

"Lee?" I asked. "What's wrong?" Though I already have an idea.

"I challenge you to a fight, Naruto!" Lee said with so much enthusiasm as he stopped in front me. Ugh… Another fight obsessed weirdo. His enthusiasm alone can already defeat me. Why not just challenge those who are stronger than him? He is a level higher than me for fucking's sake.

"Lee, my level is lower than yours." I reminded him, but he was not deterred. Oh, damn… I sat up straight and looked at him directly in the eyes. "I refuse to fight you, Lee."

Lee narrowed his eyes, obviously thinking of something that would make me change my mind. It was amusing as well as annoying to watch him fidget like he was really itching to do it. But with someone as enthusiastic as Lee, I doubt I would have chance of winning. Lee, as I've heard, is really enthusiastic and is almost a master of many martial arts. I might be reckless, but I'm not suicidal.

"But Naruto, I–" Lee was cut off when a voiced suddenly interrupted him.

"Shouldn't you be fighting someone else?" Even I have to turn to the new arrival in barely hidden surprise.

"S-Sasuke-sama!" Lee looked more enthusiastic now. Ugh.

Sasuke emerged from the bushes and looked at me with that stony face of his. It was annoying, to say the least. "Sorry, but Naruto and I have a duel to settle first." Lee's eyes widened at that, and so did mine. What the hell is he talking about!? I don't remember ever challenging him and vice versa! Argh! Sasuke, you bastard! Just what do you really want?

"Can I watch?" Lee looked hopeful and Sasuke smirked.

"It's something intimate. You might even want to cover your eyes." He uttered and Lee blushed.

"Okay then. I'll leave!" He grinned at Sasuke and winked at me, to my horror.

I glared at Sasuke who didn't even look the least intimidated. "What the hell was that about? I didn't challenge you nor did you challenge me, bastard."

"As noisy as always." Sasuke only looked at me with boredom. "Shouldn't you be thanking me that I got rid of him for you?"

"I didn't need your help." I merely answered. I doubt that people like him give their service without taking something in return anyway. It's better to be on the safe ground.

Sasuke crossed his arms over his chest as he looked down at me. "You better prepare some explanation as to why you won't join my group." His tone was too serious for my liking, and it's making me have an impression that Lee would be the last person to see me alive before my killer strikes.

I sighed, straining my head to look at him directly. "Can you sit down? You're towering over me and I'm straining my head." He looked at me in annoyance before he sat on the ground in front of me, way too close for my liking. But at least it's better. "I do not intend to join your group because… if I ever want to join a group, I want it to be aniki's."

His eyes narrowed. But he was the one who wanted some explanation and I was just giving him one. And his next answer, one I didn't expect, upset me. "So you're sucking up to your brother now that you experienced what it's like to gain people's attention? Earlier, you purposefully shouted the words 'aniki' just to make people notice you, right?" He snickered and I felt my face hardened. "I doubt he'll let you in his group anyway. You're much too weak to be by his side, dobe."

I understood that. I understood what he said, but it still so fucking hurt that he voiced it directly to me. So, while all the lower classes gawk and stare at me because I am my brother's sibling, the higher class Fighters think that I'm using my brother to gain attention to myself? They think that I'm not strong enough to stand beside him? Do they really think that I will use his reputation for my own selfish benefits?

"Oh, did I hit a nerve?" He smirked, clearly enjoying my reaction as the pain slowly reached my physical feature.

I know that if my mind was any clearer, I would have held back. But of course it wasn't. Anyway, it wasn't my fault. He was the one who said such bastardly things to me.

I stood up and immediately grabbed him by the collar of his uniform, my eyes seeing red. He looked surprised for a while, it was obvious that he was not used to being treated so harshly like that, and I took that opportunity to bring my fist directly to his face. Oh, you think that because I'm talking so casually right now that the event was a casual one? Wrong. The blow was so swift that his eyes widened just as it landed on one of his cheeks. He stumbled backwards without any poise, and I would've felt bad for him, if it weren't for the fact that I was too angry to care, even if somewhere deep inside me I didn't like how his smug expression turned into one of pain so concealed that I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't used to reading an enemy. Even if I'm used to fighting, I'm not used to seeing an opponent in pain. Perhaps you might think that I'm such a sissy or something, but my conscience is not something to be underestimated. And I could feel the pang of guilt slowly eating me from the inside as he slowly looked at me, not with anger, but with pure shock and pain from the hit. And I turned around and left him without another word.

I didn't think he would look at me like that. I thought he would get angry and attack me too. But his expression, his usual cold demeanor covered with pain, was something that affected me hard. I don't know why, but I don't like it. It made me feel like I was the most awful person alive. Damn you, Sasuke bastard… And it wasn't even my fault that I hit you…

That afternoon, I didn't bother hiding anymore. I fought anyone who dared challenge me. I fought groups of F, E, or D Class Fighters and I didn't stop to think. I know I was being weak by letting the bastard's words root in my heart. But somehow, realizing that I'm nothing but trouble to aniki, I can't help but want to cry. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't. So instead, I fought and fought and fought mindlessly. I let my instincts lead me and I stopped thinking of the stuck up raven who purposefully hurt me just because I turned his invitation down. I didn't want to remember Sasuke's harsh words, or his pained expression. I didn't want to think about him at all. And so the students who dared get in my way that afternoon only got into trouble.

And by the end of the afternoon, I received a message from the Chairman calling me to his office.

"And why the long face?" Orochimaru asked when I entered his office. "Did you have a rough day?" He asked, eyes full of knowledge of everything that is happening. "I told you you'd have a rough day, Namikaze, because you're brother experienced this too."

I looked at him, not really wanting to seem rude but not at all interested in his ramblings. I know my brother's life. He'd had a rough time here when he was a first year because of the color of his hair. It stands out too much, just like how mine does. Our hair is just too much bright and often calls unwanted attention to us. But aniki never complained, so neither would I…

Orochimaru chuckled at the broken sight of me, or so I was thinking inside my paranoid head that that's the reason he was laughing. "Surrender your magatama."

My eyes narrowed at that.

"Do you have to be suspicious of everything, Namikaze?" He asked in amusement as he brought out a small red box. "I will replace your beloved magatama with a different color, so you should give it to me."

I scowled at his rudeness as I took off the earring from my ear. I gave it to him quietly as he handed me the box. I sighed as I opened it and gazed at the beautiful blue-colored magatama inside it. So, I'm a C Class now huh… I admired it for a while, the scowl slowly easing off my feature, before I took and wore it. I murmured some half-hearted gratitude out of polite conduct than real appreciation of what he'd given me. I was far too absorbed in my own thoughts to actually be myself.

"Oh, by the way." Orochimaru smiled creepily. "Don't fight with anyone for the next two weeks. You'll get detention if you do."

My attention focused on him with those words. "Wha–? Why?"

"It's because the Sentouki Tournament is coming up. Students need to reserve their strength for it. And your magatama won't pick up any fight with other students during those times anyway so there's really no reason to fight."

"Not even practice?" I asked. I really don't know what this Sentouki Tournament is, but it is the least of my problems at the moment so I don't really care.

"Detention, Namikaze." Orochimaru smiled, creepier than the one earlier. "And please refrain from fighting outside school too. That is, if you don't want to have aching muscles or staying at the hospital during the supposed tournament. All Fighters are required to attend, by the way. You can treat it as an exam." He smirked. "A one of a kind examination that makes students exert not only sweat but also blood."

Literally, huh?

And so, aniki… I promise I will so cook you dinner if you train me.

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.tbc.

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Ren-sama's Note:

Uhm… review?