My eyes slowly opened to see a clean, white ceiling and the smell of disinfectant assaulted my nose.
I sat up in surprise and then groaned when my temple throbbed. What did Matsumoto do to us after I fell unconscious? Are there Silver Snake's men outside?
I looked around, found my phone and checked the date. I went to the warehouse to save Ichigo… yesterday…?
Ichigo… Was he alright? I hugged my knees. Do I have the right to think that, though? This whole thing started because he was my boyfriend…
What did he love about me, anyway? I realised I've never really asked him that.
What did I like about him? I searched my mind for an answer but none came up. There was just this constant feeling of wanting to be with him. What do I do when I see him again? I thought suddenly and I started to panic. Despite all the troubles I've caused him, I want to return to his side… but will he accept me? After all, us breaking up was a mutual decision.
Do I… still even love him? I want to be with him but maybe… maybe I'll be satisfied with being just friends?
The sound of the door opening released me from my thoughts. Ally? Enemy? My brain asked and I tensed.
I stared at him and he stared back.
There was no need to think all that, I decided. There is no reason. I love him. I just do, nothing else matters. Even if it'll cause more problems like this. If it's Ichigo, I don't mind…
I slid off the bed, ran up to him and threw my arms around him and he welcomed it. I laid my head against his chest and listened to his heartbeat. He is alive and well…!
"Ichigo, I'm sorry about what's happened these few months," the words spilled out from my mouth. "I'm sorry that you got hurt and I know this is a selfish request but I didn't mean it when I wanted to break up so please come be-"
He tucked some loose strands of my hair behind my ear and looked at me in the eyes. I felt myself beginning to melt and I held my breath. Was he…?
He lifted my face up gently with his hand and leaned forward. Soft lips pressed against mine and my eyes slid closed. His other hand was around my waist and our kiss deepened. I guess that's a yes? My brain supplied helpfully and then promptly short circuited.
Eventually, I ran out of breath and had to pull back. I rested my forehead against his while I tried to even my breathing.
"Rukia, I love you so much," Ichigo's breath tickled my ear.
"I love you, too," I replied whilst feeling my face heat up from embarrassment. Did we really just do that? In a hospital? "I missed you a lot," I mumbled as I caressed his face.
That was when it finally dawned on me. I pulled my hand back in surprise, "Where are your bruises?"
I looked down at his hands, they were unharmed too. I reached for his shirt but he caught my hand. Without saying a word, he pulled his shirt up slightly so I could see the bandages wrapped around his abdomen. "The knife just missed my vital organs and arteries but it'll still take a few weeks for it to completely heal."
"That's good," I sighed in relief. "But your chest…" I tugged the shirt up even higher but… "There's… no wounds?" I touched his torso gently. Did he suddenly develop superfast regenerative abilities?
"Ahem," the sound of someone clearing their throat caused us to jump apart. Ichigo quickly straightened his shirt while I just gaped Ulquiorra.
How long has he been standing there? How much did he see? Oh, Kami-sama, if he tells my brother about this…
Wait… if he was here then we were safe from the Silver Snake. What happened after I fell unconscious?
"She's awake," Ulquiorra stated simply.
"Oh… OK," Ichigo answered and I felt him tense. Who were they talking about? "Rukia, c'mon," he held my hand and pulled me outside.
"Who were you two talking about?"
"You'll see," he answered vaguely.
I had a billion other questions but he seemed to be too preoccupied with his own thoughts. We went down a floor and all the way to the other side of the hospital wing. He stopped outside a closed door and turned to me.
"Rukia, can you promise me something?"
"What is it?"
"Whatever you see or hear, stay calm and don't get angry."
"Ok…" I frowned at his odd request but he had already opened the door. It lead to a normal looking hospital room. I frowned and opened my mouth to ask why this place was so significant when I finally recognised the person sitting on the bed.
"Matsumoto Rangiku?" I said in realisation. I hadn't paid attention to the name tag outside the door. Then I saw that there were bandages covering her head, arms and even her legs.
"She showed up here this morning," Ichigo explained when I looked at him in confusion. "Someone found her all beaten up and unconscious on the side of a street and drove her here."
"After all she's done, you still care about her?" I said scornfully. Nel, who was sitting on a chair beside Matsumoto's bed stood up, probably preparing to defend Matsumoto but it was another person who talked first.
"It's because of what she's done that you need to care about her, Rukia-chan," I froze when I heard the voice come from behind me. I swivelled around to see Gin standing at the door.
He then walked straight past me to the bed without a word. "Rangiku, are you feeling better?"
"Yeah," she replied with a nod. "I'm still surprised I'm alive though…"
I turned to look at the scene unfolding in front of me, too shocked to speak. "G… Gin…?" I finally managed to say. "What is going on?" I took a step back from the crazy scene in front of me. Too many things had happened in such a short time. I started to feel dizzy.
"He will explain everything," Ulquiorra, who had entered the room after Gin, said while looking at Ichigo pointedly.
I also looked at him. He stared back at me, swallowed and said, "I'm sorry but… basically, this all happened because of me... It's… complicated… I guess I'll start from the start…"
"Break up with her," Uqluiorra said calmly.
"What?" I stared at him incredulously. When you started acting weird after the news report a few months back, I went to find Ulquiorra to see if I could help with anything. Seeing your reaction, it was pretty obvious the dead person on TV was somehow related to Kings. "That's all you came up with?"
"That is the best answer," Ulquiorra retorted simply before returning to the forms on his table. I thought he was going to ignore me but then Ulquiorra spoke again after a while, "If you really want to help her then your goal for the next few months is to get her to break up with you."
I was still staring at him, unable to speak. Was I really that much of a nuisance? There really wasn't anything I could do except leave so you wouldn't have to worry about me anymore?
Ulquiorra finished the paper he was signing and stood up, "I'll take you to meet someone." I was still mulling over his words but he had already left so I quickly followed him to the car park and got into his car without saying anything.
"Who are we meeting?" I asked when I got fed up with the silence. He didn't reply but he turned into a street and stopped in front of a plain looking store that sold clothes. I gave up on asking for answers and followed him inside silently.
"Welc – You!" Matsumoto greeted from behind the counter. Her smile transformed into a glare when she saw Ulquiorra. She looked like she was going to strangle him but all she did was put her hands on her hips. "You didn't tell me she didn't know me! I went up to tease her for a bit but now she thinks I'm the enemy!"
"I miscalculated," Ulquiorra stayed calm under her angry gaze. "I thought K would've told her about you."
Matsumoto sighed and seemed to deflate, "Well… It's too late now. At least this doesn't affect the plan much."
"What plan?" I asked stupidly before something else occurred to me. "Matsumoto-san, you know K… Are you…?"
"I'm a member for Kings," she said with pride. "Ah… but I don't have the tattoo, though, because it'll cause troubles when I'm on missions."
"Missions?" I echoed and scolded myself for sounding so stupid.
She leaned in and whispered as if she was sharing a grave secret with me, "I belong to a subsection of Kings that specialises in infiltrating gangs and getting information. Not many people know about us for obvious reasons."
"You haven't found any information yet, though. If only Ka-" Ulquiorra stopped himself midsentence. A heavy silence fell between them and something in my brain clicked. Kaien was also keeping an eye on Silver Snake before he…
"W… Well it's not my fault," she huffed. "She hardly shows up at the hangouts and when she does, she is always wearing a mask that covers her whole face and distorts her voice as well. Who does she think she is? Some ambitious, scheming teenager who is plotting the downfall of their greatest enemy but can't even reveal their true identity to their underlings because it'll endanger her normal life or something?"
"Well… she kind of is?" Ulquiorra said with a raised eyebrow.
"Can someone explain to me what's going on?" I asked. My brain was full of so many questions it felt like it would burst.
"Later… Where is Miyako-san? We can't stay for long," Ulquiorra looked around the little shop.
Right then, a woman came out of the room behind the counter. Ulquiorra waved at her and she gave us a smile, "Hello."
"Uh… hi…" I greeted awkwardly.
She held out her hand, it was surprisingly thin and pale, and said, "You must be Kurosaki Ichigo. My name is Miyako. I'm Kaien's wife."
"Oh…" I shook her hand numbly. She's that Miyako… What do I say? After all, I was there that night… when you went to Kaien's apartment and…
She ruffled my hair with a gentle smile that was tinged with sadness, "You don't think to think about it so much, Kurosaki-san. What happened was inevitable."
Seeing that everyone was here, Ulquirra launched into an elaborate explanation about his plan.
I would get close to Matsumoto, which would ultimately lead to us breaking up. During that time, Matsumoto would get Nel, a girl she met who was forced into Silver Snake's gang, to blackmail you into breaking up with me. It pained me just thinking about this but Ulquiorra explained that things would be much easier for me to carry out my part of the plan if I cut ties with you. When I'm wasn't making you worry about my closeness with Matsumoto, I had to think of ways to worsen our relationship. I never imagined I would be doing this… Purposefully making you want to break up with me… I just hoped that once everything was over, you would still be willing to be my girlfriend again… After all, I took part in this because I wanted to prove to you that I'm not a burden.
Miyako-san was in charge of giving you hints and help you when she could but, whenever you ask about Matsumoto, she had to pretend that Matsumoto was a bad person to keep up the ruse.
During this time, I had to help Matsumoto gather as much information as we could about Silver Snake and his daughter. Unfortunately, the kidnapping of Kings' members was a direct order from the head of the gang so we couldn't stop them from happening.
Whenever you left the apartment, I would leave as well. Sometimes I would go find Ulquiorra to get lessons from him on fighting and other times I would meet up with Matsumoto to gather information.
Matsumoto was pretty cheerful and I enjoyed her company but I still hated the idea of lying to you. Half of me wanted to stop the plan but the other half wanted to help you. Ulquiorra said it was too late to have these half-assed thoughts and if I hesitated then everything we've done will be ruined – Matsumoto's life would be in danger, too, if the enemy found out that she was a spy.
In the end I made up my mind to follow the plan to the end and but then you got into the stupid motorbike accident. I knew it was my fault that it happened – Ulquiorra told us that morning that we had to do something that would make you get angry at me but I never knew you would get so pissed and upset that you would get into an accident.
While Ulquiorra and I waited at the hospital for you to wake up, I snapped. I was taking part in this plan to help you so what's the point of it if I just end up hurting you? It wasn't worth it. I had no idea you had woken up so you heard me, mistook the meaning of my words completely and we broke up - just like that. Even Ulquiorra was surprised by how smoothly it went and he even praised me by planning it out so well.
I seriously wanted to punch his face in.
I hadn't wanted that to happen at all! I wanted to come clean, tell you about Ulquiorra's stupid plan but you… you… threw me aside so easily.
It took Ulquiorra almost a week to get me to continue the plan. When Miyako told us you were going straight to the Silver Snake's daughter, we panicked. We persuaded Nel to help us in on the plan again but we never knew that Shirayuki was going to used timed bombs. We did save Nel's brothers and Starrk's daughter, though, but before we could even celebrate that, you collapsed. I still haven't scolded you about that, have I? What the hell were you doing? Overworking yourself like that until you collapsed with a fucking fever! Good thing I'm studying medicine…
Anyway… there was a moment of panic where we didn't know if we should postpone our plans but then Matsumoto called for an emergency meeting.
"She's Shirayuki," Matsumoto practically cried once we arrived at Miyako's shop. She hugged her head with her arms, "All this time she was right beside us! Why didn't I notice anything?"
"Well she doesn't look like someone who's a part of the yakuza world," I tried to calm her but it didn't work.
"What do we do now?" Matsumoto looked up at us with her brow knitted tightly together. "She's close to Ruki-"
"We stick to the original plan," Ulquiorra stated in determined voice. "We can't let the preparations go to waste."
And so, Matsumoto went to Shirayuki and said Miyako was doing suspicious things and suggested that they should get rid of you in the process, too. Shirayuki agreed and sent a few people to harass Miyako while Matsumoto would come 'kidnap' me. Shirayuki left Matsumoto to guard me and to rough me up a bit so she spent an hour or so drawing realistic bruises and cuts on me with makeup while I tried to sound like I was in pain.
When you came to the warehouse… I didn't know if I was supposed to feel happy and proud or scared shitless by the expression on your face. Don't give me that look, it's true. Go ask Matsumoto - she actually shuddered under your gaze. And, well, I understand and accept what you do but when you saw me get 'hurt' and lose control like that…
You were slashing through people like they were overgrown grass and you were wearing a completely emotionless face. It wasn't like in the horror movies, where the killer cut up their victims up into little pieces. You went for everyone's vital organs without a moment of hesitation. You didn't even give them the chance to dodge! I guess I understand why you keep me away from serious yakuza fights… I'm not going to lie. I was honestly scared.
But despite everything, my body moved on its own and I found myself with my arms wrapped around you. I have no idea how you didn't mistake me for an enemy and slash me to bits but I'm very glad that you stopped moving when I hugged you. And well… other than me getting stabbed by Shirayuki everything else went according to plan. Matsumoto shot you with a tranquilizer bullet so she could carry the unconscious Shirayuki away without causing any further trouble. But when Shirayuki woke up, she called Matsumoto a traitor and ordered a few followers to beat her up and leave her somewhere and that's brings us back to where we are now...
I finished my long monologue and watched Rukia's reaction.
"I don't care if you're angry at me and feel betrayed or whatever and never want to talk to me again – well, actually I do care about that, but – I just want you to know that for the duration of this whole thing, the only thing I was thinking about was you. Please believe me."
She was staring at me but I couldn't read her expression.
"Rukia?" I called her name uncertainly.
She turned and left the room without saying a word.
I was expecting her to hit me or at least explode in anger but… What?
"What are you doing, you retard!" Matsumoto snapped at me and threw her pillow at me. "Go after her!"
"O-oh…" I answered hesitantly before running out of the room when Matsumoto tried to throw the flower vase at me.
I searched the corridors but she completely disappeared.
"The roof," Ulquiorra poked his head into the corridor and said. "She likes to going to high places to calm down for some reason."
"Thanks," I answered half-heartedly before rushing away.
Rukia was indeed on the roof. She was leaning against the railings and watching the streets below. Just as I was wondering how to approach her she slowly turned around.
"You lied to me," she stated with a scarily calm face as she took a step toward me. That expression reminded me of the one she had at the warehouse and a chill ran down my spine.
"I'm sorry," I rubbed my neck and replied sheepishly.
"You went against my efforts and jumped right into this mess," she took another step.
"And you kept everything from me," she was yet another step closer to me.
"I had to. I'm really sorry."
"You made me worry for no reason this whole time," she was right in front of me now, looking up at me.
"Stop apologizing when you don't even mean it," She snapped, her eyes narrowing dangerously.
"I can't think of anything else to say to make you feel less angry at me," I replied truthfully. "Well then, how about… Here, punch me. You'll feel better." I pointed at my cheek.
After a second of hesitation, she raised her fist and I started to sweat. Receiving a punch from her was no joke but it was too late to change my mind so I just closed my eyes and braced myself for the impact.
Take it like a man, Kurosaki!
"Oof!" The force of her punch made me lose my balance and I sat on the ground. A coppery taste soon filled my mouth. I touched my cheek tenderly and winced.
OK… that was a really bad idea…
"You really didn't hold back, huh?" I said while shaking my head.
I looked up when I didn't get a reply to see her staring back at me with her eyebrows furrowed and eyes rimmed with tears.
"Baka!" She scolded as she grabbed onto the front of my shirt and shook me till my head spun. "You could have died right there and then! Baka Carrot! If she had aimed any higher she would've pierced your heart!"
I placed my hands on her trembling shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug.
"What am I going to do if you're gone…?" She mumbled into my chest. Seeing her willingly show me her vulnerable side left me speechless but I also felt a bit happy that she let me see her like this.
"I'm sorry," I said and this time I really meant it. "I'll never leave your side. I promise."
"You better not do this again!" She warned while shaking me.
"Yes, Usagi-Kaichou," I answered. "But in return you have to stop keeping things from me."
"Oh, trust me, I will tell you everything from now on if not telling you means you going off and doing these types of things!" She huffed and I couldn't help but crack a smile.
"So… You're not angry anymore?" I ruffled her hair.
She glared at me ferociously and I wondered if she was going to slap me. "Of course I'm still angry!"
"But…?" I prompted.
"B-but…" She looked away and bit her lip. "But, despite everything, carrots are still what rabbits love the most."
A smile formed on my face and I pulled her in for another hug, "For once, I think I'm actually thankful for the colour of my hair."
She rolled her eyes, "Baka."
"Yes, I know I am one," I rubbed my forehead against hers. "I'm a fool who is hopelessly head over heels for a certain stubborn midget who tries to shoulder everything herself."
She was silent for a moment but in a small voice – so small that I almost didn't hear it – she said, "Thank you, Carrot.""Now you're the stupid one," I jabbed her forehead and scolded. "Don't thank me. After all, I'm your boyfriend. If I don't help you, who will?"