I blinked and rubbed my eyes to check what I was seeing was real. There, standing in front of my bedroom door with his fists raised determinedly, was Ichigo.
When I didn't reply, he repeated his words again, "Fight me."
"I can't deal with this this early in the morning," I pushed passed him.
"Just do it," he urged.
"No," I looked at him weirdly. Was this his attempt to get revenge on my attitude yesterday? Ichigo wasn't violent by nature but hitting something was the fastest way to release pent up emotions.
"Don't look down at me," he growled. "Treat me seriously and fight me."
"I fail to find the connection between the two," I rolled my eyes. My eyes widened and I ducked low to dodge his fist. "What the actual fuck, Ichigo?"
"I told you to fight me," he replied while aiming a few more punches. "Come on. I learnt a few things from Ulquiorra so don't think you can just do this half-heartedly."
He was learning self defence from Ulquiorra? Was that the reason why he came home so late on some days? If Ulquiorra had taught Ichigo any unnecessary techniques then…I thought grimly. I'll need to talk to Ulquiorra about this.
I jumped lithely from foot to foot to dodge his attacks and he increased his speed. We moved away from the hall and toward the dining room. "Why aren't you fighting back?"
"I'll wait until you become bored," I replied calmly while leaning back to avoid his kick.
"So I'm not good enough for you to face me seriously?"
I don't want to fight you seriously… I don't want to hurt you.
"If I was being serious, you would've died in at least 19 different ways from the moment I opened my bedroom door," I observed coolly despite my inner turmoil.
"Then teach me how to fight better."
I faltered when I heard his words and narrowly avoided his head-butt. I tensed up to prepare for his next wave of attacks but was surprised when he lowered his fist slowly. "I know I'm getting in the way… At least let me improve so I can protect myself if I ever need to… It hurts my pride as a guy to have a girl get so worried about him that she sends undercover bodyguards to follow him when she isn't around."
Ah…so he found out…
"So, let me say it again. Fight with me. If I win, it proves I'm strong enough to help you and you will tell me what is happening. If I lose, let me learn to fight better so you won't have to feel obliged to protect me." Taking a quick step forward before I could reply, he swung his fist at me and the tirade of attacks began again. Although I still wasn't fighting back, I deflected his attacks instead of just dodging them. With his constant attempts at attacking and me dodging, we made our way from one side of the apartment to the other. When I realised we were just outside the kitchen.
"Geez, Carrot, you're so slow," I teased when he missed again. "What happened to winning against me?"
He growled and said in between each of his punches, "Treat. This. Seriously!"
In a blink of an eye, I reached for the spoon on the kitchen counter, grabbed his arm and twisted it behind him while kicking his legs. He landed on his stomach and I sat on his back, one hand still twisting his arm and the other pressing the spoon against his neck. "You mean like this?"
"As expected, I lost. Now teach me how to fight," he huffed. "Please?"
I tapped my fingers on the seat before running my hand through my hair. Pulling out my phone, I tried to block out the voices coming from the people practicing karate around me. The private gym run by Kuchiki Enterprise is used by Kings' members to train how to fight. Unlike in Karakura, where Urahara somehow managed to make that underground space and catered to all our necessities, we had several buildings in Bunkyou where it's specifically used by Kings' members and workers of Kuchiki Enterprise. This gym was built in the underground levels of the building. The upper floors were used by the company workers during the day as their office.
"So tell me again why he is here?" The instructor stood next to me with his arms crossed. "He has the basics of fighting down touch. That kid doesn't need karate."
"I figured you would be the best option. He wants to learn how to defend himself," I shrugged. "You know how the other instructors are."
"They teach people how to kill whereas I mainly focus on defence. I remember you started off with karate, as well. You just turned 4 when I first met you and I was amazed by how fast you learned karate. Then the next year you started taking lessons for other fighting styles, as well… " He studied me for a moment before straightening up. "I'll teach him everything he needs to know about self-defence."
"Nothing more," I glared at him.
"Nothing more, I promise," he waved and walked off.
I sighed and rested my cheek in the palm of my hand. Ichigo dodged his opponents kick and proceeded to flip him over, triggering a weird surge of triumph coursing through me.
Break up with Kurosaki Ichigo… I closed my eyes. After handing me that picture, the girl remained silent for the rest of the time. What am I supposed to do?
How did they find out about us?
Who told? Is there a traitor amongst us? Again? It was strictly forbidden to talk about me and Ichigo… I made sure I wasn't seen with Ichigo when the new 'recruits' were around so how…
What do they gain from me breaking up with Ichigo?
No, more importantly, who were they?
I need to find out who they were and fast. I clenched my fists in frustration. We've caught so many people, got so many people working on our side in Bunkyou now so why were we having so much trouble finding the damn people behind this.
"Why what?" Ichigo asked and caused me to jump up in surprise.
"Nothing…" I shook my head and bit my lip.
Ichigo… My boyfriend… My Carrot… After our fight the day before, I felt myself die inside and I realised I loved him more than I realised…
"I don't want…" I couldn't breathe.
Him or Kings… I knew I probably had to make that decision sometime in my life but I never would've thought it would be like this… I couldn't choose. And I was horrified by my indecision.
"Ru – Kime?" he widened his eyes when he saw my expression.
"I think you've had a long enough break," I looked away and cleared my throat. "I brought you here because you wanted to learn. Don't slack off now."
"Go, shoo, or we're going home," I waved him off. He studied me for a while longer before going away. When Ichigo finally finished his session, we left the building and headed home. Our apartment was nearby so we opted to take a walk instead of being driven back.
"Want some ice cream?" Ichigo suggested when we passed a convenience store.
"Sure," I nodded and entered the store just as my phone rang. "Sorry, can you buy mine for me? I want the strawberry flavoured one," I asked him and stepped out of the store again.
"You got news, Drake?"
"I was just wondering if you got information from those people at the warehouse."
"They wouldn't open up," I sighed. "Any ideas?"
"The guy's name is Starrk and the woman likes to be called Nel," Drake supplied. "It's a bit under the belt but mention Starrk's daughter and Nel's brothers the next time you find them and they might talk."
I nodded slowly. "I'll call you back later, then. You're method better work," I headed back but Ichigo wasn't in the store anymore. Trying not to panic, I walked out of the shop but stopped when I heard giggling. Following the sound, I looked into the alleyway.
Ichigo was leaning against the wall of the building while talking with a smirk on his face. A girl with wavy, long hair was listening to him and giggling.
Was that MY ice cream that the girl was currently eating? I looked at her face again and froze.
I didn't know what else I should think. Of all the people…
I rubbed my face tiredly.
"Ichigo," I called out while walking toward them. He looked over but his smile faded when he saw my expression. "We should go."
"Uh, yeah," he answered hesitantly. "Sorry, Nel-san, guess I need to go."
"No, wait," Nel's eyes raked over me before grabbing his arm. "Come here, I forgot to tell you something." I watched her pull him toward her, whisper something into his eye and give him a tiny wave when he left. I turned to go as well but was stopped by her words, "So, Kime, have you made up your mind? Maybe I should help?"
"Why are you doing this?" I made sure Ichigo was out of earshot before I turned back to face her. "I don't get how we breaking up will benefit your boss."
"Not everything is about benefits, Kime."
I glared at her, "Tell me who your boss is, Nel."
"What are you going to do if I don't? I don't think you would want to risk killing me and bringing more trouble upon yourselves."
"You have two brothers," I stated. "Should I pay them a visit?"
She tensed but then shrugged, "You could try. But they're with my boss."
"Is your boss taking care of them? Or holding them hostage?" I asked while studying her expression.
Her wides widened a fraction before scowling, "Don't talk about my boss like that."
"How about a deal? You tell me who your boss is and I'll save your brothers."
"I don't think you're in any place to make any deals right now," she countered. "If you break up with him, I will talk."
"I'll find out on my own, then," I glared at her coldly. This is going nowhere! I stifled a sigh before turning away.
"There's no use talking to Starrk," she said while watching me. "There's no way he'll do something that would endanger his daughter."
"Tell me who your boss is before I run out of patience," I warned and took a step ward her. I didn't like making threats like that but I was running out of ideas.
"You'll know when my boss wants you to," she walked off in the opposite direction.
With a frustrated sigh I went to find Ichigo.
Why couldn't I get a straight answer from anyone?
I guess the only option I had was to go visit Miyako again…"Rukia," Ichigo called and I looked up to see him scowling. "We need to talk."