I shoved the door wide open, the bell above the door jingled loudly as I stepped inside the deserted bar.
"I'm sorry, but we aren't open for business yet," a bartender said lazily without looking up from the glass he was cleaning.
"Where's your boss?"
His eyes flickered up uninterestedly, "I'm sorry but Moriyama-san is out right now. What is your name? I'll tell him you dropped by."
Oh, so his real name was Moriyama. "Tell Drake Kime dropped by," I told him while turning to leave. Next time, I reminded myself, I will call Drake before coming over.
"Kime?" He huffed. "Because Kings is gaining power quickly these few weeks, everyone is pretending they're part of it. This week there has already been nearly 10 people claiming to be Kime. How do I know you're the real one?"
Oh? There's been people pretending to be Kings' members? I frowned. Again?
Mistaking my silence for hesitation, the bartender pointed to the door while rolling his eyes, "If you leave now I'll overlook this."
Wordlessly, I unbuttoned the top two buttons of my shirt and pulled it aside to reveal my tattoo. He inspected my tattoo before placing the glass noisily on the desk and bowing slightly, "Please forgive me for my attitude earlier, as I said-"
"I know," I cut him off impatiently. "Just let me meet with Drake. He said he wanted to tell me something."
"Of course," he opened the door behind him and I followed him inside.
It was dimly lit with a few chairs lined along the side and a table in the middle. Drake was working furiously on a laptop but looked up when he heard us enter and quickly stood up.
"Have a seat, Kime-sama," he gestured to one of the chairs while giving the bartender a pointed look. After he left, Drake passed me his laptop.
"I've been checking the surrounding surveillance cameras all morning trying to follow the white van," Drake ran his hand through his hair tiredly. "It rounded this corner but then the van disappeared into thin air."
I studied the screen while biting my lip thoughtfully, "That warehouse on the corner. Maybe they parked the van in there?"
"That's what I thought, too, but wouldn't they try harder to hide? They're being too careless…" I hate to admit it, but he had a point.
"Well, it wouldn't hurt to check the place out," I shrugged. "Can you try to find more information?"
When I exited Drake's bar, Ulquiorra walked up to me with furrowed eyebrows, "Are you sure he can be trusted."
"Yes, he works for Miyako and I trust her," I explained impatiently.
"Enough," I cut him off. "If anything happens, I'll take responsibility."
"Will you be able to face the consequences if they betray, though?"
"Like I said, I don't think that will happen. But if it does... We'll just cross that bridge when that time comes," I murmured after a slight hesitation. "Let's go to the warehouse."
I sat on my couch, leaning back and relaxing my muscles while releasing a tired sigh. The van was indeed parked in the warehouse and there were about five people inside the building whom we defeated in record time. I knew something was off and it was only on the way back home that I realised.
The people driving the vans were able to kidnap King's members. The five people we faught were too weak to perform those tasks. Frustratingly, the five people didn't spill anything even after being interrogated. There were two people that were especially hard to read. One of them was a middle-aged man with a fading goatee, dark brown hair and blue-grey eyes that watched us uninterestedly. The other was a well-endowed female who seemed to be around Matsumoto's age and had long, wavy blue-green hair and hazel-coloured eyes.
From the information we had collected, those two were definitely the pair that had kidnapped and probably killed our people. I rubbed my chin thoughtfully… But why would they get surrender so quickly? They wouldn't talk so, despite my reluctance, we eventually left. We couldn't even them to tell us where the fourth and last missing person was being held captive. The only thing I got from them was…
"What are you thinking about?"
I jumped at Ichigo's voice and he just stared at me with a raised eyebrow. Things weren't going as smooth as I had hoped ever since we had our fight but it wasn't so bad that we were giving each other the silent treatment. He also stopped asking me to let him help but, to my silent horror, he was still hanging around Matsumoto.
"Nothing much," I shrugged. "How was your day?"
"It was alright," he stretched tiredly. "I was going to go to the library to work on my assignment but there were too many people there."
"That reminds me, I still have another assignment that I haven't finished…" I suppressed the urge to ask him if Matsumoto was there and instead headed for the fridge. I grabbed a bottle of juice and a celery stick for Chappy.
"You're limping," he said suddenly.
I looked up in surprise before leaning most of my weight on my right foot subconsciously, "I tripped and sprained my ankle."
"I've seen you jump off from a moving vehicle and land without even getting hurt, Rukia. Don't tell me you think I will fall for that lie."
There we go again… I thought mentally and bit my lip. "I just got kicked in the shin. It's not as bad as it looks."
"You need to be more careful."
"I am careful…" I rolled my eyes and inched my way toward my room. "But some things are just too hard to prevent. You should know how chaotic fighting is."
"I don't get why you need to fight yourself," he frowned and I supressed a sigh. "Can't you just get the others to get the job done?"
"I've told you before Ichigo…"
"Whenever I see you, you're always getting fresh injuries," Ichigo cut me off. In two quick strides, he was in front of me and he grabbed my wrist. "Seeing you getting all these cuts and bruises… Do you know how helpless I feel?"
"Ichigo, stop," I tried to shake his hand off but he gripped on tighter.
"Must we have this conversation every time?" I hissed angrily. "I just want a normal civilised conversation like the ones we had before we came to Bunkyou. Is that so hard?"
"You want me to act normal when my girlfriend thinks my upperclassman and friend is shady and I'm seeing my girlfriend get hurt every time I see her?" He retorted. "And on the topic of being my girlfriend... Have you ever thought about how much effort you put in to see me these days? Do you even remember the last time we had a meal together?"
"… Ichigo, you sound like some jealous girl," I rubbed my temples. This couldn't be happening. Ichigo isn't usually this irrational.
"I don't care if you think I'm being irrational," Ichigo growled and I realised I had said that last part out aloud. "Lately you come home late – if you even bother to come home. From what I heard from the staff here, you spend most of your time in that Ulquiorra's office nowadays." He scowled and looked away.
"Don't tell me... Where are you getting these ideas from? There is nothing going on between us," I had no idea how the topic changed to this one but I was too caught up in my frustration. "You're complaining that I'm spending more time being Kime than being your girlfriend… Am I right in thinking you're telling me to choose between you and Kings, Ichigo? I thought you'd understand..." He looked surprised by my question and I took advantage of it. Shaking my arm free I stepped into my room and slammed the door.
"Rukia, open up," he knocked on my door. "I wasn't forcing you to choose. Fuck… Open the door!"
"I'm feeling really tired, Ichigo," I replied while staring at my feet. "We'll talk next time."
He called my name a few more times but I didn't reply. Eventually, I could hear him walking away and I slid to the ground.
Its better this way, I persuaded myself and then hugged my knees. "I should've anticipated that this would happen eventually... We try so hard to make this work but I guess... Some things just can't be fixed despite our efforts..." I chuckled humourlessly. "It's not fair…"
Reaching into my pocket, I produced a piece of paper that the girl we captured today had passed to me in silence. Hoping it she was another person who was secretly working for Miyako, I accepted it without much thought. But when I arrived back at my apartment I realised it was a photo. It was taken when I was still in junior high, before I had the fight with my brother and moved out of the house.
In the photo, I was stepping out of a building with a blank, doll-like expression that I wore on my 'missions' and was completely alone. The white dress I was wearing was strapless and the top half of the 'K' tattoo was showing, illuminated by the moonlight. The dress was dotted with flecks of red – the blood of the unfortunate enemies I dealt with that night – and the knife I held in my hand was covered in blood.
On the back of the photo there was only one sentence:"If you don't want this photo and many others to be leaked, break up with Kurosaki Ichigo."