"See, I told you," he said with a hint of glee. "I can't take it off."
I glared daggers at the tattooist who seemed to have shrunk to half his original size.
"I'm sorry, miss, but it's the rule," he said in a shaky voice from behind the counter. "Members of Kings can't get rid of their tattoo's this easily. They need to go through a leaving-the-gang-ritual type thing. Even you can't change that rule, miss."
I narrowed my eyes and the poor soul shrunk again. Well, he was stopping Ichigo from getting his tattoo off so he doesn't really count as a poor soul anymore. "Do you not know who I am?"
"Eep, of course I do…"
"Sorry, Usagi-kaichou, but you're power as a student president doesn't reach this far," Ichigo patted my back.
"Our school is on the next street over," I pointed out.
"You know I don't mean it like that," Ichigo sighed dramatically and I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms.
"I'll make you wish you never got that tattoo," I said coolly and stalked out the store.
"Oi," Ichigo soon caught up to me. "What's with the change of attitude, Usagi-Kaichou? Man, even I got a chill from you and I'm in a gang!"
I stopped and glared viciously at him, "Don't think you're invincible because you're in a gang, Ichigo. How many times do I have to say, this isn't a game!"
Ichigo raised his hands up, "Whoa there, I don't think I'm invincible just because I'm in a gang. And I'm not just in a gang, Kaichou-chan, I'm in a gang and I'm one of the ones in charge."
"…Forget it," I walked on with a dangerously dark expression.
"Hey, hey, cheer up," he grabbed my arm and I shook it free. "What's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into me? What's gotten into you?" I hissed. "You will get yourself killed if you step any deeper, stupid carrot, not might but will!"
"Don't jinx me," Ichigo huffed and then put his arm around my shoulders. "Let's get you some cake so you'll cheer up, yeah?"
As I let myself be led to a nearby café I remembered something, "We're meant to be having a study session!"
"Ah, it'll be fine. I can get top marks even without trying."
"Right, that's why I'm your tutor," I rolled my eyes.
"No, seriously," Ichigo insisted. "C'mon, test me. 20000 yen if I don't give you the right answer. "
I watched him scan the menu and the cakes available before opening my mouth.
"I want strawberry shortcake."
"Ha...?" He looked at me incredulously. "I thought you were thinking of questions?"
I bit my lip and looked down, "Tummy first."
I found myself mesmerised when the usual frown he had dissolved into a genuine laugh. I looked away when his laughter died down.
"The battle of Sekigahara…"
"Happened in the Edo period, 1600's, when Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Hideyori and many other Western enemies which abled him to establish his government in where we know as Tokyo today. He continued to rule Japan the next 250 years," he answered while still staring at the cakes on display.
I found my mouth opening and closing like a goldfish but I didn't care. What just happened must be a coincidence, I decided.
"Japans first capital city…"
"…was Nara. It was established in 710. 74 years later the capital was moved to Nagaoka then to what we know now as Kyoto in the year 794. Some 1000 years later, in the Meiji era, the capital was moved to Tokyo. C'mon, Usagi-Kaichou, you can do better than that. These things are basic primary school knowledge!"
I glared at him whilst biting my lip. This guy… I won't lose!
"What's the integration of…?"
"20000 yen, please," I glared at Ichigo's triumphant face, wanting to punch it.
"Hmph, take your stupid money," I slapped the notes onto the table and took a bite out of my cake angrily.
"Gladly," Ichigo smirked and pocketed the money.
The small bell above the café's door rang and a boy strolled in. Maybe because of Ichigo's bright orange hair, he instantly looked toward us. Then his bored expression turned to one of shock.
The black-haired boy immediately walked up to our table and did a dramatic 90 degree bow before straightening up again.
"G-good afternoon, Ichigo aniki! Good a-afternoon, aniki's… girlfriend!" He stuttered and stared at me in wonder.
I refrained myself from strangling him right then and there.
Ichigo's girlfriend? Do I look like someone who would go out with some retard like him? And what was with that stare? I was not some animal on display at a zoo!
I turned back to Ichigo and kept my face expressionless, "I'm going home."
"Uh, I'll walk you to the bus stop…" I heard Ichigo muttered but I was already walking out.
"What's wrong with you," Ichigo asked. "What, you jealous of my fame?"
"Keep dreaming, you carrot," I replied without looking at him.
"Really, see how well-known I am now?" he kept talking despite my lack of response. "But, wow, I knew Kings was famous and stuff but I didn't know they were this famous."
I rolled my eyes but couldn't help checking our surroundings. Sure enough, every now and then people – even shop keepers – would suddenly come out bow or nod at us respectfully. It was weird how I never noticed that before.
It was making me uneasy. This was bad news - really, really bad news.
"Aren't you worried all this attention would bring trouble from other gangs?"
Ichigo gave me an 'I'm in Kings, why should I be scared' look and said, "No one dares to cause trouble on our territory."
Ugh, him and his beliefs. It will get him into trouble one day.
"An aniki took me around the other day to 'introduce' me to these people," he explained. "And now everyone knows me. It feels awesome!"
"… My ass it does!" I stood on his foot as hard as I could and stomped off. I called my driver as I walked away and five minutes later I was leaning back into my seat while massaging my head.
"Rukia-sama," my driver said and then fidgeted when I glared at him. "Um, there's a guest waiting at your apartment…"
I groaned. How hard is it to get some peace around here?
Before the elevator door opened, I took a breath to ready myself for whatever nuisance was inside my penthouse suite.
"Kaien," I widened my eyes when I saw the single person sitting in my sofa.
"Hey, my Kuchiki Princess," he stood up with his arms out and I ran into his hug. "How've you been?"
"…Don't even ask," I muttered and my face darkened in record time.
"Ok, I won't," he laughed and ruffled my hair.
"When did you get back?"
"Few hours ago," he strolled into my kitchen and opened random cupboards in search for food. "Took a day or two but I found a company willing to partner with us over in Las Vegas."
My mouth formed a 'O', "More business partners? I thought Nii-sama just found one a few weeks ago - Ichimaru Gin or something. Nii-sama even held a party."
Kaien sat back on my sofa and opened a bag of chips. "He's not a new partner, princess. The Ichimaru family has been working with us for almost a century. And Ichimaru Gin is business from that side. He's the Silver Snake, by the way. But what I was referring to was business for this side."
"Right," I said, not really caring, and reached for some chips.
Kaien moved the food out of my reach, "You're having dinner soon so don't eat this stuff."
"What about you? You're not staying for dinner?"
"Nope, sorry, princess, but I gotta go. I'm meeting your brother at Urahara's Club," he stood up and headed to the elevator, taking the chips with him. "I only dropped by today to see how my princess is doing but I'll come back again in a few days, I promise."
I waved and he disappeared into the elevator.
I slumped down on the sofa.
Like Renji, I've known Shiba Kaien ever since I could remember. He was like a brother to me. But these days he's always going overseas or doing jobs for my brother and I hardly ever see him.
I sighed again and stared at my roof when my mind finally caught up with what Ichigo told me before.
Ichigo was in a gang.
A gang called Kings.
I rubbed my face.
I had meant to tell him earlier, but faltered when I saw his proud face. I couldn't do it. It was like telling a child that Santa Claus didn't exist.
How do I tell that deluded carrot that the gang he joined was actually a fake?