Hello everyone!

Thanks for reading my story. I'd like to thank the reviewers, you guys left me some really encouraging words. Please continue to tell me what you think! And, I hope I didn't keep you waiting "forever", as one of you mentioned ;)

This chapter is a bit slow, but I wanted to open you up to the more mundane part of Konoha's life before we get to the good stuff, which starts next chapter.

Kuroha: And by "good stuff", she means me.

Kano: Of course not! She means me and danchou-chan~!

Kido: Shut up.

Seto: Oh! Do you mean we're going on a nature hike? That sounds like the "good stuff" she was talking about to me!

Ene: Are we going to an amusement park?

Hannah:...no. Anyway, enjoy ;D

"Hello, Konoha!" Ayano Tateyama beamed. She waved at him with one hand, and swung her and Shintaro's arms with the other.

"Hello Ayano, hello Shintaro." He greeted in his usual quiet manner, his red eyes ghosting over their faces.

Ayano had on a bright, beautiful smile. She seemed to be always smiling, bringing joy and comfort to those around her.

Well… most people.

Shintaro looked the same as ever – bored and irritated. He was discreetly trying to free his hand from Ayano's grip so she would stop swinging his arm. He liked her – or, he tolerated her more than most – but publicly embarrassing him was going a little far.

Konoha trailed behind the two as they entered the school building, watching the other students gathering and rushing to class, darting about like schools of fish in the ocean.

"Hey guys!" He heard, and Konoha used his higher vantage point to spot Haruka Kokonose and Takane headed towards them.

Haruka and Takane weren't in the same class as Ayano, Shin, and Konoha because they were in the Special Needs class. Haruka had a difficult medical condition, and while Takane was Ene in a human body, the body itself was a bit unstable. To avoid questions, she blamed it on a disease.

Both Haruka and Takane were quite fond of Konoha. He assumed Takane appreciated his quiet attitude so that she could boss him around, and he and Haruka shared many of the same interests as well as their huge appetites.

"I wonder what they would think if they saw you as Konoha."The Snake snickered. "Would they still be your friend, or would they turn away in disgust?"

Ene and Shin know. He thought back.

"What about Ayano and Haruka? Mary? Your mother?"

Ayano and Haru are good people. Mary and Okaa-san love me.

"They love Konoha."

Konoha ignored the Snake, choosing to talk to his friends instead. "Good morning, Takane, Haru."

"Hey, Konoha." Takane greeted. Konoha smiled a light smile, remembering that Takane acted differently than Ene.

Haruka smiled, bright and cheerful. "Good morning, Konoha! How are you?"

"I'm fine." He replied.

"Konoha~! We have to go or we'll be late for class!" Ayano called.

"What about you guys?" Shin asked.

"Pfff. Tateyama-sensei's a pushover. No big issue there." Takane chuckled.

Haruka laughed nervously. "They're right, Takane, we probably should get going. See you guys later!" With that, they turned back down the hall towards their classroom.

Konoha watched them go for a moment, swiveling to follow Ayano and Shin afterwards.

As they got to class, Konoha and Shintaro separated from Ayano to go to their seats in the back. Due to Konoha's height, the teacher had given him the seat in the very back of the class, and Shintaro sat next to him.

The bell rang soon afterwards, and class began. While the teacher gave a lecture, Shintaro mostly aimlessly scribbled in his notebook, only half-paying attention. Though, whether he actually paid attention or not made no difference; he got perfect marks anyway. With an IQ like his, he could probably teach the class better than sensei.

Konoha tried to take notes, but his characters turned into doodles of negima and triceratops. He could usually remember what the teacher said, but he had problems piecing it together to complete his homework. Shintaro usually helped him.

He glanced at the window, watching the sun shine on the trees and grass. He knew that Kuroha was coming out tonight; he had that job with the gang that Ene told him about.

He knew it would feel good. When he didn't allow Kuroha to have free reign every once in a while, he'd begin to nag at him, and the snake's voices would be louder.

It's going to be great~!

Konoha twitched, slightly disturbed by the voice. He didn't want Kuroha to decide to take over during class. So, to tune him out, he focused on the lesson, doing his best to take notes. The classes past quickly that way, and soon, school was over for the day. They met up with Takane and Haruka again in the foyer.

"Konoha, come on! We're going to Shin's house to study!" Ayano beamed, tugging on his arm.

"Hold on!" His other elbow was quickly grabbed by Takane. "Konoha's coming with me and Haruka to organize our project for the school festival!"

"We can do that later! Finals are next week! Let's go, Konoha!" Tug.

"This project is more important than a stupid test! The festival is next month and we have a ton of work to do!" Tug.

"Konoha told us he'd come to Shin's house!" Pull.

"Konoha told us he'd help first!" An even harder pull.

Poor Konoha was stretched between the two girls, at a loss for what to do.

Steam was coming out of the ears of both, and Takane was glaring while Ayano looked bothered.

Then, they turned to him.

"Konoha! Tell her you're coming with us!" They both shouted simultaneously.

Now, Konoha was usually a very calm, easygoing person, but when faced with two angry girls….

He panicked.

So, he did what he always did when he was in dire need.

He turned and aimed his cutest, most innocent puppy eyes at Shintaro.

Help me! They pleaded.

Shintaro froze, looking like a deer caught in headlights, before he sighed heavily, slapping a hand over his face.

"Haruka," he said, turning to the boy who was currently doodling away in his sketchbook. "Can Konoha help you guys tomorrow? Ayano really wanted to study today."

Haruka looked up and locked eyes with him. "Oh but Shin, we're ready for his help! I have the designs and everything, see!"

He flashed his most beautiful, endearing smile at his friend.

Sparkles appeared in the air around him.

Shintaro gulped.

No he was caught between two of his weaknesses?

His eyes skittered nervously from Konoha's pleading face to Haruka's beautiful smile.

Why him?

He grunted in annoyance.

Great, now he had to take charge. Responsibility. Yuck.

"Konoha will be joining us today." He announced, brushing each of the girls off the giant, before taking his hand and leading him towards the door. "You can have him tomorrow."

"But Shintaro!" Haruka gasped.

"Kisaragi, I swear!" Takane began to threaten.

"No." Shintaro said, continuing on his path.

"Yay!" Ayano happily skipped to their side, taking Konoha's other hand. "See you guys later!" She cheerfully waved, ignoring the crestfallen look on Haruka's face and Takane's fury.

"We won't let you get away with this!" She yelled.

"See ya." Shintaro pulled his trio out the door.

The three strolled down the sidewalk, Shintaro still disgruntled, Ayano giddy, and Konoha quiet as usual.

Eventually, they reached Shintaro's house, and the friends made their way inside. After greeting his mother, Shin took them to his bedroom.

"You don't think we… hurt them, do you?" Konoha asked quietly.

"Don't worry about it, they'll get over it."

Konoha nodded, looking satisfied.

"But, don't expect me to save you again tomorrow! Geez."

The albino smiled, and wrapped his arms around the boy.

"H-hey, get off!"

"Thank you, Shin." He said.

"Forget it, okay? Just let go!"

Ayano giggled quietly as Konoha released Shintaro, who huffed and left the room.

"I'm grabbing some snacks." He muttered.

"Get something besides cola, Shin!" Ayano called after him playfully.

"Yeah, yeah."

Ayano chortled, seating herself on Shintaro's bed. Konoha sat down at Shintaro's computer desk chair, turning it to face Ayano and the doorway.

The door burst open with a bang, slamming into the wall as a blonde girl stomped in, her hand still extended from throwing it open.

"Hey bro! I heard you coming in, can I– "

She froze, her eyes wide as she stared at the two people in her brother's room. Konoha and Ayano stared back.

"Oh, um." The girl righted herself. "I'm sorry! I though brother came home alone." She fiddled with her pink hoodie nervously.

Ayano smiled. "It's fine. Nice to see you again, Momo-chan."

Momo smiled. "Yeah! How are you, Ayano-san? And hi Konoha!" She waved eagerly at the albino, who gave a small wave back.

"Just Ayano is fine, Momo-chan. Did you need something?"

She nodded, her blonde ponytail bouncing a bit on her head. "Yeah. I was going to ask Shintaro if I could borrow his phone charger." She looked down, rubbing her foot against the ground bashfully. "I kind of lost mine again…"

Ayano giggled. "He just went down for snacks, he'll be back."

"I am back. And Momo, what are you doing in my room?" Shintaro grunted as he came in, carrying a tray of snacks.

"Shintaro, can you please let me borrow your phone cord?" Momo begged, clasping her hands in front of her face and making puppy dog eyes.

Said brother's eye twitched. "What happened to yours? And don't tell me you lost it, because I know you didn't."

She sighed, dropping her face and looking down.

"I dropped it in the pool." She admitted finally.

"What?!" Ayano gasped in shock. Shintaro rolled his eyes as he turned to place the tray down.

"W-well I didn't mean to! We were walking past the pool and I pulled the cord out and then Marry tripped and bumped into me and then Seto grabbed us to keep us from falling in but – "

"Never mind." Her brother cut her off. He produced a cord and handed it to his sister, ignoring Ayano's look of astonishment. "This does not leave the house, understand?"

She grasped it eagerly. "Thank you so much!"

"Just leave." He herded her out of the room and shut the door behind her, muffling her still-coming thanks. With a heavy sigh, he turned back and walked over to the tray. After handing a soda to Konoha, he grabbed one for himself, popping the cap and releasing the hiss of caffeine from within.

The sound eerily reminded Konoha of one of his snakes.

"Your sister sure is something, Shin-chan." Ayano giggled.

He plopped down on the bed beside her, laying back and folding an arm behind his head. "She's tiring." He muttered. "Younger siblings are annoying."

Ayano rolled her eyes playfully. "They aren't that bad. Seto and I get along great! Momo just admires you. And Marry's a sweetheart." She turned to the albino. "What do you think, Konoha?"

He looked up from one of the books he'd picked off Shintaro's desk. "Marry is cute." He said simply, and went back to reading.

The girl laughed, her brown eyes twinkling in amusement. "See? There you have it! So, how about we start studying now?"

Shintaro agreed, and they all pulled out their homework and began to work on it. Shintaro walked the two through the lesson they'd learned today, and helped Konoha complete his homework. Before they knew it, a few hours had passed, and it was time for Ayano to go home.

"Bye Shin-chan! Bye Konoha!" She waved, her ever-present red scarf waving in the slight breeze. Shin offered a meager tilt of his hand while Konoha replied in a small wave.

As she passed out of sight, Shintaro began to speak to Konoha without turning.

"We'll have to head straight to the Dan. We've got that job tonight, remember?"

When he didn't hear a reply, he turned, only to jump, startled at the now coal-black hair, mischievous smirk enunciated with pointed canines, and sharp yellow eyes leering at him.

"Hello, Shinshin~" He spoke, his voice now deeper, smoother.

Recovering, Shintaro's features relaxed into a deadpan expression.

"Well, you sure didn't waste any time..."

The male's smirk widened into a grin.

"…did you, Kuroha?"