The next week was torture. I was eager to find out whether or not I had been accepted into the understudy program with Jiraiya. Sakura and Ino both interviewed with Tsunade. I didn't know anything about Ino applying, but Sakura had said that her interview had gone well. She felt sure she was in. Sasuke had interviewed with Orochimaru, too. Orochimaru didn't waste time in announcing whom he was accepting. I was the only one left. I had not heard anything from this teacher.
Sasuke and I were called out during break time to meet for the soccer club. Kiba and Lee were in it, too. The club officials were all upperclassmen and wanted to fill out more paperwork with our information and availabilities to figure out when it would be best to have club meetings and practices. Sasuke and I mentioned that we had applied to the understudy program, so we didn't know with certainty how our schedules would look like. The president said to simply let them know as soon as we know so that he could create some slots during the week for us.
Sakura and I went to talk to Ten-Ten and Lee after classes were over for the day to ask about the club. She said she'd have all the information and dates drawn up soon. Sasuke waited for me in the courtyard under one of the larger trees whose shadow covered part of a row of benches. As girls walked past they fawned over him, but Sasuke ignored them all with a book. He didn't bother reacting to them, saying anything or glancing their way. The teme had girls following him all time, but he was always to indifferent to them.
I was halfway across the yard after saying good bye to Sakura when a man came from out of nowhere and put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me. I looked up at him. He was an older man with long white, spiky hair. He was grinning.
"Uhh, hi," I answered.
"Uzumaki Naruto, right?"
I took a step back from him. It was him. "Ah yeah."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Jiraiya. I have decided to take you on as my understudy," he announced. "I'd like to meet your parents before I do anything else. Where do you live?"
I was about to give him my answer when Sasuke showed up. He bowed to Jiraiya. "Sensei," he said.
"Hey! You're the youngest Uchiha, right?"
"How's Itachi doing?"
"He's well, thank you."
"That's good. Last I heard he got hired at a large corporation."
"Yes, he did."
"That's good, good. Well, what about it, Naruto?"
"Actually, I live with Sasuke and Itachi," I finally answered.
His face went from a grin to wide eyes. "You don't say."
I wrapped an arm around Sasuke's shoulders. "Yeah! They adopted me over a year ago!"
Jiraiya stood there just staring at us. "Well, then, I would like to talk to Itachi first, if that's all right."
"Sure it is! Itachi won't mind!"
Sasuke pulled out his phone and started to text Itachi. He replied within a few seconds. "Itachi says he's available tonight after dinner time. He also said you're welcome to join us for dinner at seven," Sasuke informed him.
"That sounds like a good time. Tell Itachi I would love to come over for dinner."
Sasuke nodded and texted Itachi something else.
Jiraiya patted my shoulder and smiled. "I guess I'll see you two tonight!"
"Uh, right," I answered. "Thank you, Jiraiya-sensei!"
Jiraiya eyed me for a moment longer before turning and walking away. Sasuke put his phone in his pocket and watched Jiraiya leave. He raised his eyebrow.
"He's weird," he commented. He faced me with a smirk. "You two should get along well."
"Dammit, teme! Quit making fun!"
"Hn. Come on, let's go home."
We walked home, stopping along the way to get some chips. It was beyond me why Sasuke liked salt and vinegar chips. They were so gross. Then again, he couldn't understand why I liked sweet things like chocolate and ice cream. Sasuke was silent the entire way this time. I wasn't sure why. He normally chatted with me on our way home or he'd show me something on his phone. This time he walked staring straight ahead, hands in his pockets.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yes, Naruto. I'm fine."
A small smile broke onto his face. "Quit being a moron, dobe."
"Stupid teme! I'm just asking if you're okay, dattebayo!"
"I already answered and told you I was fine."
I let out an exasperated sigh. Sometimes he was such a pain in the ass. Not bothering to say anything else, I entered the gate and dashed for the house when I saw Itachi's car in the driveway. I hurried inside to find Itachi up in his office, leaving a mess of shoes, jacket and backpack at the door. I greeted him with a smile and told him that Jiraiya wanted me to be his understudy. He smiled and congratulated me as he continued to pack his briefcase. He told me he'd be back later in time to make dinner and receive Jiraiya. He greeted Sasuke on his way out and left.
Sasuke took off his shoes and hung up his sweater without a word. He pulled out his phone as he walked into the kitchen to rummage through the fridge. He pulled out a bottle of tea and a package of cherry tomatoes. Then, he headed upstairs.
"Ne, Sasuke, want to play some video games?"
"Maybe later. I'm going to study."
"Oh, then let me get my stuff and we can study together!" I told him, running back to the door to fix my mess.
"Hn. I'll be in my room."
"All right, I'll be right up."
Sasuke left. I grabbed my pack and sweater. I figured I could leave my sweater in my room on my way to Sasuke's room. It was a little strange that he wanted to study in his room. He normally brought his things down to the living room to study. He probably didn't want me to get distracted with the television the way I normally did. I tossed my sweater onto my bed and headed into Sasuke's room. He was sitting at his desk with an open notebook and textbook above that.
"Can I do my homework on your bed?"
"Hey, Sasuke, can I ask you something?"
It was now or never. Hopefully he didn't think I was being too nosy. "Do you like Hinata?"
"She's a nice girl. I've known her for as long as I can remember," he replied, not bothering to turn around.
I spilled my books out onto the bed and sat down with a sigh. "That's not what I meant."
Sasuke paused, let his pencil fall and swiveled in his chair to face me. "Then what did you mean?"
"I meant if you liked her, you know?" I stared at him, waiting for my meaning to dawn on him.
His eyes widened for a moment, before they rolled. "Do you ever use your brain for anything useful?"
"Hey! You don't need to insult me! I'm just asking a question, dattebayo!"
He bent his arm up and leaned his cheek on his fist with a small huff. "A dumb question."
"How is it a dumb question? Come on, don't you have someone you like?"
"What? For example, how you're hopelessly infatuated with Sakura?" he asked, sounding bored with the conversation.
"Gah! Forget I asked anything!" I yelled at him. "There's no point if you're going to be an asshole, dattebayo!"
Sasuke closed his eyes and sighed. "No, I'm not attracted to her."
"See? Was that so hard?"
He opened his eyes half glare at me. "Excruciating."
"You're such a jerk."
We were silently doing homework for about an hour when I decided to speak up again. "You excited about the understudy program?"
I chuckled. "Why? Is it because you're stuck with Orochimaru?"
"He's creepy, but he is very knowledgeable."
I saw him nod.
That was that. We didn't speak again unless I got stuck on something. High school was somehow a lot harder than middle school. There was also the fact that Sasuke wasn't assisting me as much as he used to. He would give me hints rather than guide me on how to do something. I guess he felt the need to not teach me things after our teachers had already given full lectures. He said the fact that my notes were so sparse didn't help me retain any information.
He was always like that; he liked criticizing the fact that I wasn't the perfect student he was. My notes were never lengthy or detailed. More often than not my pages were covered with maybe three sentences and doodles. Okay, so maybe he had a point.
It didn't seem that long before Itachi came home and started cooking, preparing dinner. As much as I asked to help him, he didn't seem to mind making more than he normally did. Rather than letting me help, he sent me away and out of the kitchen. I couldn't understand what the big deal about this Jiraiya person was. He seemed to be like any other old man.
I went up to my room and sat at my desk. I pulled out my laptop and looked up Jiraiya. He had an official page and several fan pages. I clicked on his official one and looked through it. He had apparently won a few awards and was the author of quite a few books. As I was looking up the books, which were also sold on the site as well as other places, I realized that the titles were, well, they weren't very self explanatory. His most popular series was the Make Out books. Looking into one of them, I read a synopsis.
He was a pervert.
An absolute pervert! He wrote some disgusting books about people's love lives! I closed the tab and sighed. I was having second thoughts about being trained by a pervert.
Sasuke was in his room, not making any noise, not bothering to talk to anyone. That was normal, but considering Itachi was home pretty early, I thought it weird that Sasuke wasn't downstairs with him. Maybe he also knew the importance of having Jiraiya over?
Another half an hour passed before Itachi called us down for dinner. Just as Sasuke and I were heading down, the door bell rang.
"Naruto, could you get that?" Itachi called.
Sasuke didn't bother to come with me. He went straight into the kitchen. Rather than arguing with him, I went to the door. I opened it to find the man from earlier, Jiraiya. He was accompanied by Orochimaru. I was stunned for a moment before I welcomed them, moving out of the way to let them step inside. Both of them bowed, took off their shoes, and headed into the kitchen, Orochimaru in the lead. I figured he'd been here before at some point.
I followed them into the kitchen where Itachi and Sasuke were standing around the dining table we never used, waiting to greet them.
Itachi smiled and bowed. "Welcome, Jiraiya-sensei, Orochimaru-sama."
Orochimaru bowed, giving a small smile. Jiraiya grinned and waved. "Haven't seen you in a while, Itachi! How are you doing?"
"Well, thank you. How are your books coming along?"
"I'd say pretty good. I'm about to finish another one!"
"That's good to hear. Please, sit," Itachi invited them. He motioned for me to sit next to Sasuke, across from Jiraiya. I did as I was told, not wanting to argue with Itachi in that moment. Sasuke sat down without much noise and waited for Itachi's signal to begin eating. Once he nodded, Sasuke and I began, as did Orochimaru and Jiraiya.
Dinner was a quiet event, at least for the first few minutes. Orochimaru praised Itachi's cooking skills. Jiraiya was mostly making noise as he ate to show his approval of the food. Sasuke was as silent as a grave. I guess as long as other people were around, beside Itachi and me, he just wasn't willing to talk much.
"Naruto, tell me, how is it you came to live here?" Jiraiya asked.
"Ah, well, Sasuke found me."
"Yeah, I used to live on the streets. Sasuke found me and he and Itachi brought me here. They adopted me a little while later."
"That's very generous of you, Itachi," Jiraiya said, nodded toward him.
"It was nothing, really," Itachi said with a smile. "I was glad to help."
"Don't be so modest. You did a great thing."
Itachi only nodded, continuing to eat. Orochimaru didn't say very much, which I thought was weird. Jiraiya ate some more and then turned back to me. "Well, then, Naruto, do you know what you want to do after you graduate?"
"Uh, not really, no. I thought I could just start working right after high school," I told him honestly.
"You don't want to go to college or university?"
"I don't know."
"What do you like to do?"
I was silent for a moment. As I thought about my answer, I felt Sasuke tap my foot. I glanced his way and he gave a slight nod upward without raising his gaze. He was hinting at something, but I wasn't sure what. He tapped my foot again, with more force. I was about to snap back at him, when it occurred to me. I looked back to Jiraiya. "I like photography, but I'm not that good at it."
"Oh, is that so? Why do you say that?"
"I don't know. I don't do it too much. It's mostly a hobby."
"Well, I'm sure you'll be able to find something that sparks your interest during these next few years," Jiraiya said with a grin.
In that moment, Orochimaru decided to speak up. "What about you, Sasuke-kun?" he hissed in his usual manner of speaking. "What is it you wish to do?"
"Digital art. Graphic designing wouldn't be a bad job. Being part of an animation team or comic book artist group is the ideal job," Sasuke said.
"I'm sure I will be able to get you a few internships, if you'd like, Sasuke-kun."
"Hn." Sasuke went on eating.
"Jiraiya-sensei, do you plan to take Naruto with you any time soon?" Itachi asked.
"Not yet. I will set up a few meetings outside of class with him, but no trips yet. Probably not until summer time or next year," he clarified.
"I would appreciate being notified at least 48 hours in advance," he requested.
"Of course, I can do that."
The rest of the night consisted of Itachi talking to both Orochimaru and Jiraiya about Sasuke and me. It was like we weren't there. Every now and then we were asked about our classes or what we wanted to do, but it was never a long conversation. Both Orochimaru and Jiraiya seemed to be okay with the fact that Sasuke and I had more than one club to attend. Actually, Jiraiya encouraged me to be as involved as I wanted to be with classes and clubs, but when the time came to focus on my time with him, I had to pay attention and not be thinking about anything else.
When the night was over, Orochimaru and Jiraiya bid their good nights and left. Itachi cleaned up the kitchen, not bothering to ask us for help. Sasuke offered to help, but Itachi turned him away. Sasuke went up to his room and stayed in there the rest of the night. I went into the kitchen to help Itachi. He didn't turn me away, but he didn't say he wanted my help either. I stood beside him, dried the dishes, and stored them in their rightful place.
"Are you excited?" he asked.
"I'm not sure."
"Is there something you don't like about Jiraiya-sensei?"
"Not really. He just seems like a strange old man."
Itachi smiled, passing me a plate. "I'm sure once you get to know him you'll find something in common with him."
"Yeah, I guess."
We finished and Itachi sent me up to bed. Sasuke was still hiding in his room. That night I fell asleep thinking about Jiraiya and what I should expect in being taught by him. Right before everything went black Sasuke's face came into my mind. I had to thank him for pushing me to speak up about my photography. Even if it was just a hobby, it was a good place to start.