"Rukia-sama, there's a letter for you," my chef said when I came out of my room. I sat down at the table and he passed me an envelope. "I have prepared a Japanese-styled breakfast for you and your friends today," he said while placing a steaming bowl of rice, miso soup and various dishes in front of me. He also placed a small plate filled with fresh vegetables and fruits for Chappy.
"This looks like something served at a high class traditional Japanese inn," Nobara gasped while settling into the seat beside me.
"There are ones addressed to Nobara-sama and Akane-sama as well," he passed their letters to them.
I studied the plain looking envelop in my hands before I opened it. Inside was a card with an elegantly designed border and the words were written with neat cursive writing.
To Kuchiki Rukia,
Please join me in a private gathering to celebrate my full recovery.
The time and address of the event were printed below it but I had no interest in that. My eyes were glued to the host's name.
"Who's Ukitake Jyuushirou?" Akane asked.
"He is the previous principal of our Karakura High school," I replied hesitantly. They got the invitation too? "He's also Shirayuki's father and a gang leader known as the Silver Snake."
"What? Her dad is a yakuza boss?" Nobara exclaimed.
I nodded gloomily. And it had to be that person of all people…
"I'm going to head out for a bit but Ichigo will be here soon. He'll take you to Hisagi's place – it's a racing circuit for motorbikes. Hopefully I'll be back in the afternoon," I apologized before heading out.
It was silent except of the constant sound of pen scratching paper and the ticking sound of the clock hanging on the plain white wall. Other than the secretary's desk and a few chairs for visitors, the room was completely void of any decorative items. The left wall was made of glass but the blinds were drawn so the person inside could have some privacy. Through the gap between the blinds, I saw the person was arguing on the phone with a displeased expression. I sighed silently causing the skinny secretary to glance up at me with a frown.
It was going to be a long wait…
When I went to find my brother I found out he had received an invitation from Ukitake as well.
"Should we really go?" I had asked him. "He is obviously planning something…"
"Then we'll just have to prepare ourselves for whatever he is thinking of doing," my brother answered. "This meaningless dispute between us needs to be stopped. It is a few months early, but if I pull some strings we can get him out to help us."
And then he sent me here.
"Kuchiki-san," the man finally came out of his room and introduced himself as Iba Tetsuzaemon. "Please follow me." Iba was wearing a slightly crumpled suit, dark sunglasses and sprouted a thin moustache. His overall demeanour made me think he suited being one of the 'residents' here rather than the 'owner.'
"We don't have a set schedule so he could be anywhere," He said and unlocked several steel doors.
We entered a large which looked like the dining hall. Some people we at the tables playing cards while others just watched but they all looked at us when as we climbed down the stairs.
"Hey, who's that? Is that your woman, warden?" Someone called out, causing several people around him to do catcalls.
"Quiet," Iba scolded. "She is only a visitor so show some manners. Where's the shutcall?"
"I'll take you to him," an inmate offered and we followed him.
"Thanks but this won't lessen your sentence, you know," Iba said.
"I wasn't looking for one," the prisoner shrugged. "Even if you take a few decades off my jail-time it still wouldn't make a difference."
"Good that you know," the warden replied and they said nothing more.
We walked past several cells but the people inside just watched us warily.
"Yo, aniki, the warden is here to see you!" Our temporary guide stopped at the entrance of a cell. There were five people were in there playing cards.
Was that all that they did in this place? I thought and sighed. How mundane it would be...
"Ah?" a gruff voice answered. "Already?" The owner of the voice belonged to an unusually tall, well-toned man who was sitting against the wall in his cell. He was effortlessly balancing a 60kg dumbbell on the tip of his finger. His right eye was covered by a simple, black eye patch while an ugly scar ran down the left side of his face. His hair was way longer than I remembered but everything else about him was the same.
"You're in luck," Iba told him. "Someone is getting you outta here."
"Kenpachi," I called and he, along with his companions, looked up.
"Yo," he stood up. He was so tall that he had to duck down when he walked out of his cell so he wouldn't hit his head on the door frame. "You're still as short as ever, I see."
"There is nothing wrong with my height," I narrowed my eyes dangerously but he just laughed.
"Once you leave, this place is gonna be chaotic until someone becomes the new shut call," Iba sighed.
"Not my problem," Kenpachi rolled his eyes. Iba just shook his head and sighed again.
We went back to his office. The tower of documents Kenpachi and I had to sign was tedious but eventually we got through them.
"You're a free man now," Iba congratulated Kenpachi when we were finally done. "Hopefully I won't need to see you again."
"I ain't planning on coming back here."
When we got outside, Kenpachi took a deep breath and grinned, showing all his sharp teeth. "Took you guys long enough to get me outta there," he said when we climbed into the car. "If I had stayed in that place any longer I would've gone crazy with boredom."
"K wanted you to calm your head," I answered him. "Don't forget why you had to go to jail in the first place."
"Yeah, I know," he brushed me off with a grunt.
His attitude hasn't improved at all, I thought. Kenpachi was one of the few people I allowed to treat me so rudely. Although I didn't some of the things he did, his strength was truly worth acknowledging.
"Ken-chan!" A young girl with shocking pink hair sitting in the front seat looked back at us excitedly. "Welcome back!"
"How've you been?" He replied, his toning softening ever so slightly.
"Fine," she answered cheerfully. "I've been helping Yoruichi out at the club but it was boring without you."
"Let's go do something fun later, then." His grin was back. Yachiru cheered. "Oi, Kime, let's have a match when we get back," he challenged. "You've improved while I was away, right?"
"Of course, but not straight away," I accepted with confidence. "K wants you to do something first."
"No wonder you guys let me out early," he rolled his eyes. "Is my opponent strong?"
"While you were in jail, a person known as Silver Snake showed up," I told him. He tensed and I could tell I piqued his interest. "K is thinking of taking him out."
"He's my prey, then?"
"I'm not sure yet," I replied. I wanted to deal with him myself for doing that to us but I knew that the man beside would do a better job than me. "Even if he's not, I'm sure you'll find a way to change my brother's mind anyway.""You bet." I didn't think it was possible but Kenpachi's grin widened even further.