Almost two weeks have already passed since I fought with Drake and his group. For the whole fortnight I had been going to school during the day and going to 'recruit' other gang's members at night. By the end of the first week I only just stayed back and watched Kings' members take care of the fighting and only joining in for a few minutes if I felt like it. I haven't seen Ichigo all week since he left for classes earlier than me and by the time I got home at night he was already sleeping. Chappy was getting annoyed by my lack of attention toward her but I barely had any time to rest. Sleep deprivation was seriously affecting me, causing my mood to be impossibly low and hence being less lenient to the gangs we encountered in the second week.
Thank Kami-sama that, after two weeks, we had finally made our rounds. We had taken care of every gang that came into contact with our enemy three months ago and was still functioning. Although I didn't like it, the only way to get them to cooperate was via violence. The same thing happened over and over again like a bad dama – meet them, ask them nicely, get looked down on, kick their ass and then force the information out of them. We no longer bothered to stay under the radar. Our message was clear – we were fighting back and if things got any worse, it would become an all-out war between us and them. I'd like to think they received our message as no one else was kidnapped during this time.
I was pleased with our achievement but I was both physically and mentally tired. I could probably sleep for a whole month if I could but despite my exhaustion, the curiosity that had been nagging me for a fortnight forced me to leave my wonderful bed and go to a certain shop.
Pushing open the door, I found the shop to be completely empty save for the woman at the counter. She looked up in surprise, "Good afternoon, Kuchiki-san."
I strolled in while subtly eyeing the corners of the room. There was only one surveillance camera in the corner of the shop but there could always be other hidden devices, "Hi, Miyako-san. I have no classes today so I thought I would drop by." I pretended to look at the clothes on display. "Truth is, there is something I really want to ask you," I glanced around the shop before looking at her again. "Is there a chance we'll be overheard if we talk here?"
"No, I'm the only one that will be working here today."
"Ok, I understand…" I paced around slowly while trying to find a way to voice my thoughts. After a few fruitless minutes, I gave up and just faced her. "Why are you helping me? I'm your husband's murderer. I've caused you so much pain and yet…" I looked down at my feet. "Ever since that day, I've regretted my actions but no matter how much I lamented, he will never come back to us…"
I was surprised by her soft touch on my head. She stroked my hair with a gentle smile, "Kaien has told me many wonderful things about you. He treated you like his little sister and after hearing all that from him, I grew fond of you even though we've never met. Of course, I'm sad that Kaien is gone but he knew what the consequences of his actions would be. I wasn't able to do anything to help him or change the situation... I hated myself for being so powerless so, when I saw you for the first time that day at the cemetery, I decided I would do everything in my power to help you."
"But you still hate me, right?" I frowned. "Everything I've done… It is unforgivable, isn't it?"
"You and Kaien have more similarities than you realise," she shook her head while smiling sadly. "Your determination, stubbornness and the inclination to shoulder all the responsibilities remind me of him. I've always wondered why you're made to go through such taxing ordeals. I think most people won't be able to endure the things you do as preparation to becoming the next heir. You're so determined and strong and I couldn't help but hope."
She nodded, "By the way you conducted yourself you obviously had everything under control. Maybe it was your upbringing, but you seemed completely comfortable with your role. Kaien told me what he was going to write in that letter for you. He told you about the predicament we are in and I began to hope that there was a way for you to free us from our situation. It's selfish of me to ask for so much since you're already so busy but…"
I was shocked at her words, "You…. You would trust me even after all this?"
"I believe you are capable of it."
I looked down, "I don't believe I deserve this faith."
"You are a very kind girl," Miyako said softly. "What happened was completely out of your control so please stop feeling so guilty about it."
"I'm sorry," I bit my lip. "I probably have no right to say this but… I miss him so much… Kaien's letter was kept a secret from most of the Kings' members and every time those people called him a traitor I want to punch them so much."
Miyako ruffled my hair again, "Thank you for forgiving Kaien. I'm really glad I'm able to meet you and talk to you like this."
"Me too," I smiled at her as well, not the forced ones I usually wear since I started university, but straight from the bottom of my heart. I looked at Miyako with determination, "I'll try my best to help you so I can atone for my actions."
She flicked my forehead lightly and said in a surprisingly stern voice, "Kuchiki-san, I don't want you to help due obligation… I want you do to it because you want to."
I touched my forehead, "…Because I want to…?"
"I'm sure you understand what you would have to do if you accept my request so I won't blame you if you say no so… Kuchiki-san, tell me truthfully, what do you want to do?"
Without hesitation I opened my mouth and said, "No matter what happens, I want to help you."
"That's better," she smiled and hugged me while stroking my hair. The action reminded me of what my sister used to do when she complimented me… "Thank you, Kuchiki-san."
"Rukia-san, wake up."
I frowned and shifted away from the voice. For the past thirteen years no one except my sister and Ichigo had woken me up because they didn't want to die. Was there an emergency? My tired mind asked but decided against it. The voice sounded calm and was using the wrong honorific... They sounded familiar but my exhausted mind couldn't figure who it belonged to.
"Rukia-san!" The voice called again when I didn't move.
I sat up, eyes wide, and looked around. Yuki, Akane and Nobara were looking at me worriedly while the rest of my class were filing out the door. I frowned when I didn't spot anyone from Kings and rubbed my eyes tiredly.
Was it just my imagination? I was spending so much time sorting out business from that side that I was dreaming about it...
"Are you ok?" Yuki asked while frowning slightly. "You look exhausted"
"I'm fine," I reassured them and fixed my ponytail. How could I fall asleep in class? I chided in my head. The grumpiness I felt about being woken up was replaced by the anger I felt toward myself for falling asleep in class. "I'm just a bit sleep deprived"
"A bit sleep deprived?" Nobara echoed sceptically. "You look like you haven't slept properly in weeks!"
I shrugged and began packing my belongings, "I had to help my brother with something..."
"Again?" Akane exclaimed. "I think you need a break."
"And food," Nobara poked my cheek. "Did you lose weight?"
"I have a few vouchers to the café near here that my employer gave me a few days ago," Akane suggested. "We should all go."
"No buts," Yuki cut me off. "You've been turning down our invitations for almost a month now."
Yuki headed for the door and before I could react, Nobara took my bag and Akane latched onto my arm so I had no choice but to follow them. Despite my numerous complaints as we left the classroom, the three kept walking and talked amongst themselves.
"Rukia-chan," Yuki called without looking back at me. "Don't you ever complain about the work your brother gives you? You've been looking so tired lately. It's getting really worrying. Have you ever thought about telling your brother what you really want to do?" Akane and Nobara nodded in agreement.
"This is what I want to do," I replied simply. "No matter how tiring it is, I will do anything to help him."
"But isn't it difficult?" Nobara piped up. "I mean, Kuchiki Enterprise is a really big and famous company with flawless reputation that's been passed down from generation to generation of Kuchiki heirs. One mistake and…"
"I know," I nodded slowly. Same with Kings as well…"Which is why I'm trying my best right now so I would be more prepared when I actually inherit it."
"You're really inheriting it?" Akane gasped.
"Because my brother doesn't have any children," I explained. "He's not planning to remarry, either."
"Ah, sorry… I shouldn't have brought it up," Akane covered her mouth. The news of my sister's death had spread like wildfire in both the yakuza world and the normal world.
"No, it's alright," I shook my head.
"In any case, a break now and then wouldn't hurt, right?" Yuki ruffled my hair. "You can treat it as a reward for working so hard all the time."
"I guess," I shrugged. "It's not like I have any other choice."
"That's right," Akane nodded and tightened her grip on my arm. "We're not going to let you escape this time!"
I sighed in defeat and they all laughed. I only started spending time with my friends like this after entering university and I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy how normal I felt when I was with them. I didn't have to think about the yakuza or enemies and my only worries were what I should order at restaurants or which clothes I should buy… I couldn't stop wondering how different my life would be if I wasn't Kuchiki Rukia.
"Rukia-sama," Kana, a blonde-haired girl who was a few years older than me, walked up to us. "Something happened and Ulquiorra-san would like you to go over there right now. You forgot your phone so he told me to pass on the message."
She eyed my friends pointedly but I crossed my arms and waited for her to continue. Eventually, after some internal debate she leaned down and whispered in my ear, "The third person who went missing showed up in the north side of town. There's a bag of clothes in the car that you can change to when you go there."
"What's wrong, Rukia-san?" Akane asked curiously. "Who is that?"
"She works for my brother," I said apologetically. "I need to go…"
"Are you serious? Can't it wait?" Nobara tugged on my sleeve and then looked at Kana with a pleading look.
Kana looked at me and I pried Nobara and Akane off my arm, "Sorry, but I really need to go. I'll see you guys tomorrow."
"Rukia-san…" Nobara pouted and Akane looked like a lost puppy while Yuki just looked but I couldn't read her expression.
I waved a half-hearted goodbye and left.
"Are you sure that was a good idea, Rukia-sama," Kana glanced behind her. "They keep looking at you…"
I stopped but didn't even feel the urge to look back, "Its fine. Ulquiorra is waiting."
It wasn't that I didn't like those three but I guess, in the end, I really did belong in the yakuza world rather than the normal one…Pushing away the thought of a certain orange-haired boy, I walked away.