Notes: Summer is coming soon, so I hope I'll be able to update more frequently. I'm sorry that I took so long to write this :(
Also, the story is progressing rather slowly...so that makes me worry about it being boring. I'm not too fond of this chapter, but please review to tell me what you think! Thank you guys so much for reading! It really means a lot to me :)
Rukia and that guy came back looking chummy as ever. I could hardly believe this. I nearly choked on my own spit when I saw the way he kept his palm on her back.
She greeted me curtly.
My shoulders tensed when I felt his hand squeeze my shoulder. He bent down and spoke into my ear, "Protect her with your life." And with that, the man promptly turned his heels around and headed in the other direction. What kind of twisted relationships did Rukia harbor under the Kuchiki household?
I craned my head to peer up at her. She had a faraway look in her eyes that made me think of rain and emptiness and other sad things like that. It was hard for me to keep a steady gaze on her. "He wasn't a stalker…was he," I said slowly. It came out sounding more like a statement than a question though.
She busied her hands by tugging at loose strands of her hair. "No. Not really." A faint sigh blew out from her lips.
I snorted. "Might wanna tell me stuff like that before I get ready to pummel the guy."
Rukia sneered and folded her arms in petulance. "Tch, don't flatter yourself. You wouldn't survive five seconds in a fight with Kaien," she retorted defensively.
I scowled, but didn't say anything. She then crouched down in the spot next to me and planted herself on the pavement. Rukia was upset- I could tell by the listless movements of her arms and legs. She was glancing at all the objects in our surroundings- trees, cars, lamps- quick looks at everything but me.
So we were back to square one.
"Now what?" I finally spat out after a brief moment of dead air. This lack of sound wasn't the comfortable kind either.
Rukia had her chin in her palms as she turned to face me. Her dark, inky lashes fluttered several times. She was sitting right in front of me, but she wasn't really there. Not truly anyway. Fading was the lucidity in her eyes. She rubbed them with the back of her wrist.
I lazily rested both elbows on my kneecaps, trying to emulate a look of boredom. I wanted to get a rise out of her, anything but this muted silence. Moonlight cast spidery shadows on her porcelain face, and I wondered if she was blinking back tears. I swallowed hard and bit down on my tongue.
Her mouth finally parted. "Aren't you going to demand me to tell you all about Kaien?" she asked. The corners of her lips tugged upwards. It still looked pretty pathetic, but the softness in her voice surprised me.
I quickly averted my stare to the ground. There were some things that simply shouldn't be inquired about- and this was seemingly one of those things. I couldn't just trespass on what left such an apparent scar on her heart. I wasn't that insensitive.
"And what makes you think that I'd be interested in learning anything about the Kuchiki family tree anyway?" I scoffed.
The sudden quirk of her lips made me feel uneasy. "Oh I don't know, by the way you practically begged to know who Kaien was back in the girls' washroom," she piped up teasingly. "Besides, he isn't exactly family.."
Dejection fell over her features all over again.
"I don't beg," I snapped hotly. "And it's fine. You don't have to tell me anyth-"
"He taught me martial arts," she interrupted sharply. Her knees pulled forward and she pressed her mouth into the bend of her elbow. "I guess you could say that Kaien was my Sensei."
I swept off some of the grainy dust on the sidewalk and rubbed it between my fingers. "Who would've guessed that a girl so small could fight."
She narrowed her eyes. I didn't have time to react when she suddenly socked me in the jaw with one, swift movement.
"Shit Rukia!" I cried out as I clutched my chin with both hands. I gingerly used my fingers to feel if there was any blood. "What's your problem?" Pain seared in the area under my mouth.
"Make another 'small' joke. I dare you," she bristled. Her small hand tucked back beneath her forearm.
I continued to tenderly rub my jawbone. "God, you can be such a bitch sometimes."
I could hardly consider her feelings with my mouth stinging so badly. It began to feel sore as I gently pressed on the bruise that was beginning to form.
Rukia angled away from me and fumed. "Tell me something I don't know," she huffed. Something glistened on the surface on her cheek.
I had the urge to yell and scream and shout at her for hitting me so hard this time. The last thing I wanted to be was consoling, but that was the problem with females- they were always too pretty or too delicate to hurt. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. "Stop crying would you?" I managed to spit out. There was still a hint of bitterness in my voice.
Rukia shot me an annoyed look. "I'm not crying you idiot." She hastily brushed her face with the back of her hand.
I gaped at her in disbelief. "Are you seriously going to sit there and lie to me like that? I can see you." I reached over and quickly used the pad of my thumb to swipe at her cheek. Her skin was wet. "You're crying," I said dryly.
Rukia's face twisted into a riled expression. "You ignoramus!" She held out her palm. I watched as her fingers slowly curled into a fist. "It's raining. See?"
I frowned, but stuck out my hand as well. Sure enough, tiny droplets of water were starting to fall from the sky. In a matter of minutes, more rain began to make its way towards the earth. The droplets splashed onto my palm and dripped down my wrist. "Fuck, it's actually raining." I groaned irritably.
"I just said that," she snapped in a haughty voice.
The drizzle slowly built up to a relentless downpour, so the two of us got up on our feet and trod to the nearest cover. We scrambled under the awning of a tailor's shop to keep ourselves dry. There was nothing to prevent the icy coldness in the air though. I hunched over to retain the warmth in my body. "Shit," I muttered under my breath. "I hate it when it fucking rains."
Rukia blinked at me. "Wow you get mouthy when the weather is gray." She edged closer towards me to avoid the drip of water from the overhang. "Come on, it's not that bad."
Puddles collected in the concave areas of the cement. I thought I could see blood pooling, but then the viscous fluid turned transparent again. I rubbed my eyes until I saw fireworks dance behind my lids. Rukia lightly touched my forearm, but I quickly jerked back out of instinct. She frowned, a little put off by my actions. I didn't mean to be so cold, it just sort of came out that way.
Rukia looked at the floor. "I'm sorry for…hitting you. Sometimes I take out my emotions on people." She scuffed at the cement with her foot. "It's kind of awful." She seemed so vulnerable all of a sudden, with her eyes cast downwards and her shoulders slumped over.
I took a deep breath. It was unnerving- the way she could affect people like that. "It's okay." I swallowed my pride. "I guess all that time spent at a dojo went straight down the toilet because I couldn't even block your hit," I said with a half-hearted smile.
She shifted, and her ears perked up. "So you took martial arts too." A smirk crept up her lips. "We have something in common? Weird."
"That period in my life taught me nothing but shame anyway. There was this one girl who always handed my ass back to me every time we sparred," I mused. Thinking about Tatsuki made me feel a little sad inside. We haven't spoken to each other in months, and she used to be my closest friend when we were younger. "I always got so frustrated 'cause she was a girl for God's sake."
Rukia poked a finger at my bicep. "Excuse me? Maybe you're just weak." She finally smiled. I exhaled a little. "But the one thing Kaien taught me was to never let emotions get the best of you…" The laugh that came out her mouth was spiritless.
She suddenly looked up at me. "Do you have someone who you can always count on to make you feel better?"
I gripped the cloth of my pants. The image of red and orange tugged at my brain again. "Yeah," I managed to say. I mean, I did.
But my mother wasn't here anymore.
"Well Kaien was that person for me," she said so quietly, it was almost a whisper. "Byakuya hired him to be my personal 'trainer' of sorts. He taught me…a lot of things about life and trust."
I squinted at her. "Then why did you run like Satan was at your heels when you saw the guy?"
Rukia gave me a look of exasperation. She took a moment to respond. "Because I…did something that I wasn't proud of." She shook loose a few strands of hair to cover her eyes. Her cheeks were flustered with a tint of red.
"Things like what?" I asked blatantly.
She hesitated before speaking up. "Things like kissing him the way I kissed you."
I blinked, wondering if this was a pattern with Rukia. Apparently she gave kisses out as often as I waved 'hello' to people. I let out a short breath. "Well that was anti-climatic. You yourself said that kissing wasn't a big deal." I didn't agree with this, but that was beside the point.
"It is if you actually like the person," she burst out. "And that's not the worst part."
I folded my arms over my chest. So my suspicions were confirmed. Of course she'd go stupid over some hot-shot like him. It was just so damn predictable.
I raised my eyebrows irritably. "Then what is?"
Rukia frowned at me. "Why do you sound like you're jealous or something?"
My arms immediately uncrossed themselves in disbelief. I narrowed my eyes. "What's there to be jealous about?"
A hint of skepticism crossed her face, but she didn't continue to press on the matter. Clearly, the trauma had messed with her brain or something. I mean, I didn't even know the guy!
She rolled her eyes. "Fine, whatever." Her hand lifted to pluck some invisible dust off her slip. "Kaien is married- or was married. I don't know, his wife passed away."
"You made a move on a married man?" I asked with wide eyes. I was a little surprised by this. Not that I knew Rukia all that well or anything, but she didn't seem like the type to do something like that.
She nibbled on her bottom lip. "I don't know what got into me, okay? He just came into my room one night- and he was shirtless for God's sake- then he sat down on the edge of my bed…and wished me luck on my upcoming tournament-"
"So you kissed him," I cut in dryly.
Rukia inhaled sharply. "Yeah." She looked away from me. "Conveniently, Byakuya decided to step in right when I did. Me in my nightgown, Kaien with no shirt on, and the two of us on the bed with my mouth against his. You do the math."
"Oh shit," I heard myself murmur. "Jesus."
The head of the Kuchiki clan was definitely not a man of appeasement. I swear I've never seen that guy smile before, not even on television- not ever. It was eerily intimidating.
Rukia fell quiet for a moment. Her face was even redder than before. "My brother, he- he dragged Kaien out of my room. And after that, there was a lot of yelling and loud noises being made outside. They wouldn't even let me go downstairs," she exclaimed. "I was so worried about Kaien." A hand clutched the upper limb of her arm.
I slouched so I could lean my shoulder against the glass window. I fumbled to find the words to say. "Did you…talk to your brother after?" I asked lamely.
Rukia tilted her neck back to stare up at the awning. "No. I was a weak coward. All I did was cry every night." She squeezed her arm even harder and rocked back and forth on the soles of her feet. "I hate myself for it."
Her voice sounded choked up and doleful. It was so fucking miserable to listen to. I've never felt this heavyhearted for someone else before. The feeling sucked, to say the least.
I reached out with my hand, but Rukia shrunk away from me. "Hey…who cares about what your brother thinks anyway. It's okay-"
"No it's not!" she cried out. "He thought that Kaien 'took advantage of me' and beat the bloody pulp out of him! It's sick-" She paused. "-I'm sick! He was kicked out of the house because of me!"
Boy, that man has really got her shaken up.
I ran my fingers through my hair. "Rukia…even if you did tell Byakuya the truth, would he even believe you? You know, with Kaien being an older male and all," I pointed out.
She finally focused on me with an uneasy look on her face. "…Probably not. But the fact that I was too damn scared makes me pathetic scum. I don't deserve to have people like Kaien in my life."
I clenched my teeth together, feeling angry all of a sudden. Mad at how she was so painfully self-deprecating. How could she even think this way? I harshly seized her by the elbow and jolted her a little. "Don't say stuff like that, you idiot! Just 'cause you made one little mistake, doesn't mean that you can go around declaring that you don't deserve shit. You're still a person," I scolded her bitterly.
Rukia pulled her arm back with vigor. "How profound of you," she hissed with sarcasm laced in her tone. She took a couple steps backwards until the overhang no longer suspended over her body. The water slowly seeped through her kimono slip, making it stick against her skin. Her hair matted down on her scalp. "Hey come back here would you? You'll catch a cold," I chided.
Rukia shot me an eye roll. "As if it's any warmer over there."
Stubborn moron. I glowered at her as she started to skip in the puddles. Muddy water splashed on the back of her legs, leaving tracks of gray on her skin. What the hell was she doing? "Come on Ichigo, the rain isn't going to hurt you," she sang out loud. But her voice sounded off. She continued to jump around on the water, stomping in her sandals.
"Can you stop that?" I seethed. "You're getting mud all over yourself!"
I hopped across the cement to land in another shallow pool of water. The cool spray of rain stung the back of my heels. I snuck a glance at Ichigo. His refusal to come out from under the awning was strange, a little pathetic even. But after a few moments, the rain droplets pelting down on my body began to prick more like ice needles. He stared at me.
I held my arms out to embrace it. My hands were beginning to feel cold, but it still wasn't punishment enough. I forcefully kicked the water in front of me, watching as some of it splattered on the hem of my skirt. I was increasingly dissatisfied by the way it hardly soiled the fabric. I leapt from puddle to puddle, getting a perverse sense of amusement by the numbness settling in my legs.
Tonight had been too much, seeing Renji and Kaien again like that. I didn't even want to think anymore.
As I skittered around, my foot suddenly caught in a crack on the pavement. I felt myself sailing forward to the ground. My hands instinctively reached out to stop the fall, but it burned when the cement scraped at my palms. After landing on both knees, I allowed my legs to collapse on the floor. I was already drenched, so it's not like it mattered anyway.
"Rukia!" I heard Ichigo's heavy footsteps splash towards me. He bent over with his hands on his thighs. "Jesus you're stupid! Are you alright?" he asked breathlessly.
I wasn't sure how to answer that, but he didn't wait long enough for me to give him one. His arm extended towards me and he clutched the collar of my slip. I didn't know whether to be appalled or impressed by the way he easily lifted me up. I grounded my feet. "Hey-"
"Want to know something that my mother taught me?" Ichigo scowled bitingly. "You have to forgive yourself before you expect anyone else to!" He loosened his grip on me, then finally let go. I stared at him in shock. His eyes were red, and he looked as if he was about to cry.
Ichigo fixed a gaze on my hands. "Damn it. Look, you're bleeding," he said shakily. "Why did you deliberately try to hurt yourself?"
"I didn't. It's not like I tripped on purpose, God." But I hardly sounded convincing to myself. "And this is coming from the guy who was ready to fling himself off the side of a building? That's rich." I crossed my arms feverishly.
"In case you've forgotten, you were up there with me. So shut up." He averted his eyes.
I looked up at him, anger boiling in my veins. "Yeah well, you don't have to bear the burden of being the reason why somebody is broke and unemployed!" I exclaimed fiercely.
Ichigo was quiet for a second. But his voice was low and strangled when he spoke. "You're right, I didn't ruin somebody's life, I just ripped it out from underneath them."
Then almost instantly, he strode ahead and began to run.
His sneakers made loud slapping noises against the water as he sped off. I couldn't figure out what made him so upset all of a sudden. But I didn't stop to ponder. "Ichigo!" I hollered while taking a couple steps forward. I slowly gained momentum as I chased after him. The wind howled in my ears, and my eyesight was blurred from the rain. It felt like I was running blindly through the streets and crosswalks.
It didn't take long for Ichigo to stop abruptly once we reached some sort of park. He leaned forward with both hands clutching at his sides while panting. I stumbled toward him and grabbed his shoulder to spin him around. "Why did you suddenly take off that like?" I sounded breathless.
He shook my hand off. "What day is it today?"
I frowned. What did that how to do with anything? "Huh?"
"I said, what day is it?" Ichigo repeated tersely.
I tried to think back to when Byakuya told me the date of the scheduled marriage proposal. It was probably midnight by now, so that was technically yesterday. "It's June seventeenth…assuming that it's already midnight," I finally replied. "Why?"
Ichigo tangled his hands in his hair and leaned back in a defeated manner. "Shit, shit, shit," he cursed under his breath.
"Hey what's the matter?" I snapped impatiently. "Why are you acting like this?"
He pressed his fist against a tree trunk and squeezed his eyes shut. "It's the anniversary of my mother's death." He suddenly snapped his head up. "I need to get back to the tower before Karin and Yuzu wake up- I need to- fuck, I don't even know where we are-" His words were frantic and desperate.
"Can you just slow down for a second? Who's Karin and Yuzu?" I asked more softly.
Ichigo slumped his back against the tree trunk. "They're my younger sisters."
Right. He actually had a family who loved and cared for him. The selfish fool. I stepped in front of him. "You moron…you'll only hurt them more."
He turned over so that his forehead was pressing on the wet bark. "They'd end up hating me anyway once they find out that…our mother is dead because of me."
I pressed me lips together. Ichigo was stupid, annoying, and rash- but a murderer he was not. "What are you babbling on about?" I continued to pry.
He whirled around. "She died trying to protect me! It's my fault that Karin and Yuzu had to grow up without a mom!" His fists clenched until each knuckle turned white. "You'll never understand the pain and suffering I have to live with every single day!" He growled.
Suddenly, my problem seemed petty compared to his. Here I was, mourning over how Kaien didn't like me, and all this time, Ichigo had been bottling up his grief for my sake.
A man was always trying to be the strong one.
"Ichigo…" I said his name faintly. "You just told me that I had to forgive myself first."
His eyes shifted uneasily. "So sue me, I'm a hypocrite." He blew out a sigh. "How the hell am I supposed just excuse something like the death of my mother?"
"You know that's not what I mean. You said that she died protecting you right? So it's not your fault," I spoke firmly.
Ichigo opened his mouth as if he was about to retort, but then his attention was abruptly diverted to the sky. He raised his arm and pointed upwards. "Um, what the hell is that?"
I craned my neck to see what he was staring at. I squinted my eyes to get a better look.
There was a helicopter hovering above the city, but it wasn't just any helicopter. There was a picture of the Kuchiki family crest painted on the side. "Oh crap!" I cried out.
"They're searching for you-"
"I know that, come on!" I grabbed his wrist and dragged him along.
Memories in the rain anyone? :P The 'pain and suffering' sentence was taken directly from episode eight, so I take no credit for that.
I know that this chapter was uneventful, but I couldn't even stand to look at it anymore. I'll try to make the upcoming chapters more interesting!