Nee-sama, are you there?
I've come to visit you again. Can you believe it? It's already been around a year since you've left us.
I'm halfway into my first year at T University now. Ichigo and I were both accepted into that one but we're studying different courses. Nii-sama arranged for us to live together in one of his apartments there. The workers at the Bunkyou branch and some Kings members live there as well but I still miss everyone here at Karakura. Renji stayed in Karakura with Nii-sama to become a professional bodyguard. Life is pleasantly quiet without his constant chatting but I'd be lying if I didn't miss him. He's always been with me since I can remember, after all.
I think you'll be happy to know that I've stopped pushing people away and made some friends at the university. Ichigo talked me into doing that. There was a big fuss at the entrance ceremony when everyone found out I was attending that university but everything has calmed down now and I'm being treated like any other student - most of the time. I still can't help but leave a distance between myself and my new friends, though, in case something happens.
I've gotten used to university life quicker than I thought, probably because Ichigo is also going through this whole ordeal with me. According to him, I smile more now and there is a gentler atmosphere surrounding me. I'm still deciding whether that is a good thing or not. No one at the university knows that we're dating, though, and I hope it stays that way. It's safer for him. Kings doesn't have as much influence in Bunkyou as they do in Karakura so we try not to attract too much attention to ourselves. Kime's infamous reputation is well-known there as well so I always have to be careful of my actions.
Right now, I'm working hard to becoming a good future leader for Kings. The members at Bunkyou accepted me quickly and they treat me very well so please don't worry about me, Nee-sama. My life is going well right now. Being a Kuchiki, I know better than to take this peace for granted so I will enjoy it while it lasts.
I know you watch over us every day from your place up there but I can never stop wishing you were down here with all of us instead... Just remembering back to a year ago, I can't stop thinking it is my fault that you left us… If I hadn't-
I don't think you want to hear this from me. I think I've gone soft over this past year…
Please continue to watch over us and keep us safe. I know Nii-sama needs you as his guardian angel. You have been the queen of Kings for so long, after all. I won't say much more because I don't want you to get too worried but… Please don't let another person from Kings – our dear family members – leave us.
I need to go now, but I promise I'll be back soon. Each and every one of us respects you, misses you and loves you with all our hearts, Nee-sama.
I gently touched the stone in front of me, tracing my fingers over the name of the grave and stood up. I left the grave, trailing my hand on top of it longingly as I left. The blue sky stretched on endlessly above me and I stared at it while imagining my sister looking back at me. I then looked at the bouquet of flowers I held in my arms. Breathing in a lungful of the fresh mountain air, I headed to off to another, smaller grave. His death anniversary was still a fortnight away but I decided to visit him anyway.
"Shiba Kaien…" I read the name on the grave under my breath. I kneeled in front of his grave stone and placed the flowers on the grave but this time, unlike when I was with my sister, I kept quiet. I watched the clouds lazily float past.
It wasn't that I didn't want to talk to him. I just didn't know what to say. There was nothing to say. Love, hate, guilt, regret, respect, frustration, doubt, understanding… Nothing I said to him would express even one-hundredth of those emotions I was feeling.
So, I just sat there in a weirdly comfortable silence while staring blankly into the distance. After a while, I got back onto my feet and bowed, "Rest in peace, Kaien Nii-chan."
As I headed away, I was surprised to hear a voice behind me.
"Oh? You've already had a visitor?" A cheerful female voice said.
I glanced back to see a woman with her long black hair tied up and looking oddly happy for someone who is visiting a graveyard. Our eyes met and she bowed before turning her attention back to the gravestone.
Weird...all the graves in this area belong to members of the Kuchiki family or Kings, but I've never seen her before. I searched my memory as I climbed down the stairs but I couldn't remember who she was. I decided I would think about it later.
I stretched and checked my watch. I clicked my tongue when I realised it was already 1PM. If I didn't hurry back, I would be late for my afternoon tutorial.
I didn't tell anyone I would be back in Karakura that day because I couldn't stay long. The only sign that I had been in town was the two bouquets resting against the gravestones of the two important people who I would always respect in my life.
"So this is where you eat," Ichigo said sitting down beside me against the tree.
"Only when Akane and Nobara aren't around," I explained. "For some reason they rather eat lunch at crowded places."
He laughed at my comment before asking, "So, where were you this morning? I woke up and you weren't home."
"I went to visit my sister's grave," I said in a casual tone as if commenting about the weather.
"Oh, I see…" I watched him struggle for something to say. "Um, did you say hi to Urahara-san and the others?"
I shook my head, "I had to hurry back for my tutorial."
"Where should we have dinner today?"
"I feel like eating at that Italian restaurant," I continued to say whilst ignoring his surprise at the sudden change of topic. "You know, the one Yuki-sempai recommended."
Yuki was a 4th year business student. We had become good friends soon after I entered the university and we sometimes got together after classes with other students from the business department.
"Uh, sure," he nodded.
"Rukia-san, are you here again?" Ichigo and I sat up in surprise.
"Go," I shooed him away quickly. It would be chaotic if anyone found out about us. "I'll meet you back at the apartment after class."
He nodded and as soon as he left Akane and Nobara arrived. Tanaka Akane was a kind girl who was a bit shy. She had auburn-coloured hair tied in pigtails. Yoshikawa Nobara, a tall girl with shoulder-length black hair with dark-red streaks, was the more outgoing one of the two.
I plastered a smile on my face as they fussed over me before dragging me back to our usual eating place. The rest of the afternoon passed like usual and I hurried back home when my class finished.
"Food… Not food… Food… Not food… foo-"
"Ichigo, what are you doing?" I questioned in confusion. When I had finally arrived back at my penthouse apartment after my tutorial, the first thing I saw when I entered was Ichigo sitting at the kitchen bench holding a carrot stick while talking to Chappy with a hilariously serious expression.
He glanced at me before eyeing the rabbit, "I woke up from my afternoon nap with her nibbling on my hair again. It's the fifth time this month."
I stifled a giggle, "Chappy likes you a lot. You should feel honoured."
"You wish," he rolled his eyes. He dangled the vegetable in front of Chappy just out of her reach and watched her trying to touch it. Not wanting to see Ichigo tease my pet any longer, I took the carrot from him and gave it to Chappy who began nibbling on it earnestly.
"I thought that, after a year, she would get bored of my hair," Ichigo sighed in defeat.
"It's your fault for having such an amusing hair colour," I ruffled his hair.
"It's not my fault," he grumbled. "Blame my old man."
I scoffed, "How is it his fault? He has perfectly normal black hair."
"Stupid hidden ancestral genes," was his only reply. He wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me closer, "Let's go dinner. I booked a table as soon as I got home."
The restaurant was completely full and the food tasted better than I had expected. Afterwards, Ichigo dragged me to buy reference books and in return I forced him to go buy some clothes with me. We ended up walking aimlessly in the shopping district, not wanting to return home yet but not knowing where we should go to kill time. Occasionally, Ichigo would look around uneasily at the few guards trailing behind us a few metres away. Unlike me, he wasn't used to having bodyguards close by but he knew better than to complain about calling them off.
Being the sister of an internationally famous lawyer who was also the current CEO of Kuchiki Enterprise, a company that owned chains of restaurants, hotels, pubs, hospitals and the like, experiencing one or two attempted kidnappings every now and then was the norm. However, they were also there to be on the lookout for enemies from the yakuza world. My identity as Kime, the future leader of one of the biggest yakuza organisations in Japan, was a well-kept secret amongst Kings. Only a certain few from other yakuza organizations knew what I looked like and, to the smaller and weaker yakuza groups, I was only an urban legend. But that still didn't mean it was safe to slack off.
Ichigo would hate me for saying this but, the main reason why I allowed the guards to be with us was to ensure Ichigo wouldn't get hurt. I secretly made sure there were body guards with him when we weren't together. I don't know what I would do if Ichigo was dragged into fights because of me. If he got hurt, I would never forgive myself.
"What?" I turned to look at him questioningly.
"You've been staring at the same bag for 10 minutes. Do you want to buy it?"
I looked at the hideously designed green handbag in the window before shaking my head, "No, on second thoughts, I don't really like it. Let's go to the next store."
"Tch, girls," I heard him mutter as we left the shop. I ignored him.
When we finally returned back to our apartment, it was nearly 11.
"Welcome back, Rukia-sama, Ichigo-sama," two people in the foyer bowed and greeted. There were always at least two people on duty in the apartment, in case anything happened.
Ichigo gave them a quick bow back and I rolled my eyes, "You don't need to do that, Carrot."
"Unlike you, I don't treat everyone like air," he retorted.
I ignored his comment and headed to the lift. As we waited for the lift to arrive a group of people, the ones who were guarding us before, entered the apartment and headed into a door near the back, bowing to us as they walked passed.
"Rukia-sama," a slender man with short and messy black hair emerged a few moments later from the same door and walked toward us. He was the manager of the apartment and was also the head of security. "There is something we need to talk about…"
"Ichigo, you go up first," I said. Ichigo looked at me for a moment, probably thinking of a reason to stay, but when the doors of the lift opened he reluctantly stepped inside.
"What's wrong, Ulquiorra?" I turned to the male standing silently beside me.
"Someone from the group of people who were in charge of following you two is missing," he said in his usual bored tone.
"Is what?" I asked quite stupidly.
Ulquiorra passed me a picture of the missing person, "As you know, each person is meant to call back every 10 to 15 minutes, but we haven't heard of him in nearly half an hour."
"Maybe he got distracted and forgot about his job," I replied him in forced optimism. He continued to look at me wordlessly until I sighed. "Give him another thirty minutes. If he isn't back by then, send a group out to search the area. Find out where he was when he last contacted you before he went missing and see where he could've gone. I doubt he's left the area."
"Should we tell K?"
"No," I said quickly before biting my lip. Nii-sama put Bunkyou, along with neighbouring cities around Bunkyou, in my hands when I came to live here. I refused to rely on him because he would be disappointed. "This is only a small matter that can easily be resolved. Call me when he is found and depending on his reason for leaving his post, I will carry out a suitable punishment." It was highly unlikely because, from the moment they joined Kings and were assigned as guards the importance of doing their job right was drilled into them but I refused to think too negatively.
"Yes, Kime-sama, as you wish," Ulquiorra bowed before leaving to carry out my orders.With that, the peaceful university life I had been living in began to crumble…