"Rukia-san," I looked up at the sound of my name. Several girls stood around me as other students filed out the room. A couple of guys looked my way as they walked passed but they all hurried away when the girls glared at them.
"You gotta be careful of those boys, Rukia-san," Nobara warned as she stood protectively in front of me. "Who's knows what they're planning in that simple mind of theirs."
When I was still in high school, most of the boys were scared of me because I was the unyielding student council president so I've never had problems with them before (well, except a certain orange-haired boy). On the first day of school, Nobara and the some other girls in my class saw me – a short, skinny and seemingly vulnerable girl – and decided it was their job to protect me from the males in our class. It felt strange to be 'protected' by them but I couldn't help but acknowledge their efforts because not a single male has made it through their barrier yet.
"Rukia-san, there's a new cake shop that opened near here and we were wondering if you wanted to come with us?" Akane said with a smile.
"No, not today, sorry," I gave them an apologetic smile while straightening my glasses. After wearing them for three whole years in high school as disguise, I felt weird without them so I wore them even in university. "I have to do something for my brother." Or more specifically, his yakuza organisation, I added in my head.
"Aww," Nobara sighed in disappointment. "Rukia-san is so busy these days. It must be hard living up to your brother's expectations."
"I'm used to it," I shrugged with a resigned smile.
"You must come with us next time then," Akane insisted.
"Sure," I waved to them as they left before I packed up my books. After retying my long ponytail, I massaged my cheek while grimacing. All that smiling was really tiring…
As I walked down the busy corridors of the building, I was nearly run over by a loud group of girls from another class.
"Did you hear? He has class today!"
"I haven't seen him since the start of the month~"
"I wonder why any modelling agencies haven't signed him up yet… If he ever showed up in a magazine, I would buy it!"
"Who cares about magazines when you can see him in real life?"
"I really hope he hasn't gone home yet…"
I stared at the group as if they were some rare species and shook my head. I didn't get why girls would get all excited over a guy. I mean, there are more important things in like than ogling at the opposite gender…
I was slightly dismayed when I saw the girls go in the same direction I was going in. I contemplated taking a detour but changed my mind. This was the fastest route to the entrance gates…
"Oh, Kami-sama," I covered my ears and winced when a girl suddenly squealed. "He's coming out of the building now! We made it just in time."
I gave an exasperated sigh while fighting the urge to punch them or yell at them. Rolling my eyes, I continued to make my way calmly to the gates of the campus.
"Rukia!" Ichigo came running up to me.
"Oh, good afternoon," I replied while making sure we were a 'safe' distance apart. One could never be too careful.
"Are you heading home?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Don't you usually go to the library after class?"
He shrugged, "I still haven't read the reference books I got last time. And then there's also them…" He pointed to the area to his left with his chin.
The group of girls I had passed before were looking around franticly, trying to find where Ichigo had gone. His ability to escape amazes even me sometimes. "Oh," was my only answer.
"Shall we go home?" He suggested.
After looking at the group of confused girls for another few seconds, I nodded, "Sure, but is it okay to leave them like this?"
Ichigo just shrugged, "I'm used to it."
"Your self-esteem is too high," I scoffed.
But it was true, after spending more time with Ichigo during our last year of high school, I realised he was actually pretty popular. Not only was he good at sport, but he excelled in his studies as well. Despite his gangster-wannabe attitude he had before he met me, he actually had a great personality and always helped out his friends who were in need.
I looked at my boyfriend as I walked behind him and my hand tightened on the straps of my bag.
Ichigo was so normal before he met me and his future would've been very promising. He probably had a whole line of girls waiting to date him, but of all the girls he could choose from, he had to choose me. When I thought about that, I couldn't help but become slightly melancholy. If he had met a normal girl, he would've had a much happier and safer life. I don't know how many times I told him to think it through and change his mind about us dating but he would always avoid the topic. But who in their right mind would want to purposefully put themselves in danger?
"Rukia, what are you thinking?"
"Nothing," I replied a bit too quickly.
He wrapped his arms around my waist.
"Oi," I tried to step away from him but he held on tighter. "What if someone from the university sees? They're not supposed to know we are da-"
"You're better than all those girls back there, you know, Usagi-kaichou," he cut me off.
I clicked my tongue and chided him for calling me that old nickname to hide my surprise. "Of course I'm better than them, Carrot. I'm Kuchiki Rukia, after all, the next heir of the Kuchiki family," I rolled my eyes.
He ruffled my hair and we walked back to our apartment while he talked about his day. I looked at our intertwined fingers and held on tighter. He squeezed my hand gently and I had to look away to prevent him from seeing the stupid grin on my face.
"What did you just tell me?" I said in a frighteningly calm voice.
Ulquiorra was unfazed by my tone, which was probably why he was assigned to this job, "I said another person has gone missing."
I breathed out slowly, "When?"
"Around 2 hours ago," he answered, "While guarding you and Ichigo-sama when you were coming home from school. This is the third person this month."
I rubbed my temples. One person was disappearing each week but there was no evidence of who kidnapped them. "Get me the map."
I glared at the 3 black dots on the map of Bunkyou. The locations of the abductions were in different ends of the area. "Have there been any threats lately?"
"Are there any yakuza groups that Kings angered?"
"Have you considered opposing companies of Kuchiki Enterprise?"
"We have already looked into it, but it is highly unlikely. The companies in the area are all in partnerships with our company," Ulquiorra checked the files in his hand.
I leaned back in my chair. If it wasn't any of the large organisations, both from this side and that side, then it was probably a new or little-known group. "Send some people to walk around the area. Maybe they will pick up on some news or rumours about this or even from the perpetrators themselves. Amateurs are usually stupid enough to talk about their plans in public."
I bit my lip. No, the abductions went too smoothly to be conducted by amateurs. Kings' members had a certain standard of self-defence skills so it would be hard to take them down.
Think, think, think!
Who could be carrying out these abductions? Taunting Kings like this, I gritted my teeth. They were playing with fire and, whether they are a big or small organisation, they were definitely going to get hurt. But first, I needed to figure out who they were…
Before I broke something out of frustration, I quickly strode out of the room.
"I'm going for a ride," I told the receptionist. Several people in the foyer widened their eyes and took an involuntary step back when they saw the fury in my eyes.
Heading straight to the car park and ignoring the calls of some guards telling me to slow down, I quickly got on my white motorbike and sped off. Anger was clouding my brain, stopping me from thinking straight, and the only way to get rid of it was this. My surroundings became one big blur and the only things I focused on were my motorbike and the road in front of me. I let out an exhilarated laugh that was muffled by my helmet.
Four hours and winning three random street-racing competitions later, I was back in my apartment. Taking a deep breath to calm myself down, I headed inside. I found Ichigo lying on the couch watching the news.
"Hey," he greeted and sat up. "Welcome home."
"I'm back," I settled onto the couch. He immediately draped his arm across my shoulders and I leaned against him.
"You've been at that manager's office this whole time?"
"No, I've been out on my motorbike for the last four hours."
"Should've known," he rolled his eyes. He's known me long enough to not be surprised by the amount of time I spend with my motorbike. "So, did you rob money from some poor strangers again?"
I punched his arm lightly, "I won them fair and square."
He scoffed, "Yeah right, you're basically a professional racer."
"Why thank you," I said cheekily before something on the TV screen caught my eye.
"Police have cordoned off the area near the shop," the host reported with a solemn expression. "A businessman was walking down the alley around 8PM when he encountered the corpse. He has been in shock since. The police are still searching for any other witnesses. If you have any information, please contact them immediately."
My eyes were glued to the photo on the screen for a full five seconds before I stood up and snatched my phone, "Ulquiorra, did you see the report? Good. I don't care what you do just make sure I get to see that male. We should have a few contacts in the police force. I'll meet you in the foyer in five minutes."
"Rukia? What's wrong?" Ichigo called out in alarm.
"Don't worry about it," I told him while I quickly changed into something plain, donned a long, brown wig and grabbed a pair of large glasses.
"Stay here," I told him when I realised what he was going to say. "You stand out too much."
And I don't want to drag you into this…
"Oi, Rukia," he called after me as I waited for the lift to arrive.
"Carrot, you have class tomorrow," I said while looking at him sternly. "You should go rest."
Our impromptu staring competition lasted until the doors of the lift finally slid open.
"Fine," Ichigo sighed as he watched me enter the lift. "But promise me-"
"I know," I cut him off again. "I'll explain later, ok?" Hopefully I can avoid telling him about this until after everything has been sorted out, I thought and crossed my fingers.
The doors slid shut before he could say anything more. I heaved a deep sigh before reaching for my phone. As much as I didn't want to do this, things were getting out of hand.
"K," I said into the phone.
"I saw the news," he said in a calm voice.
"I'm heading over now."
"I expect a report within 24 hours," he stated before hanging up.
Letting out a breath I hadn't realised I had been holding, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. Even though we had anticipated that this would happen, it was still agonizing to see the death of someone from the family.
If they thought they could kill one of us and get away with it…
I gritted my teeth and slammed by fist against the wall of the lift.If I don't get to the bottom of this, I'm not Kime!