Abarai Renji was getting paranoid.
He was absolutely certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone was out to get him.
He didn’t know why. Or what he had done. Or even who it was. Hell, he didn’t even know how they planned on – ahem – getting him. But sure enough, someone had it out for him. He could feel the chills up his spine, the eyes watching him from a distance. And he wasn’t lucky like Hisagi-senpai. They weren’t just admiring stalkers.
These eyes were examining him, just waiting for the moment to strike.
They started with his hair.
Sometime last week he had woken up with bubblegum… bubblegum stuck to the dead center of his beautiful locks. Now, Renji was quite proud of his hair. Very few people could claim to have hair of the same color naturally, and it was a length to be envied. It fit his personality; it fit his persona. It was him.
It figured that the one out to get him would strike at his pride and joy. To make matters worse, he’d tried to get it out himself and only succeeded in pulling out a good bit of his precious strands. And then someone, Tetsuzaemon, had the brilliant idea of using peanut butter. The bastard had claimed he had read it somewhere. Renji knew he should have been suspicious when Tetsuzaemon admitted to touching a book.
To be honest, it might have worked, if there hadn’t been a subsequent Hollow attack immediately following Renji’s application of the crunchy, sticky stuff. And of course, his division had been summoned. And by kami, Kuchiki-taichou couldn’t be bothered to take his squad out. Just had left it to the stray dog.
By the time Renji got back to the division and by proxy the showers, the peanut butter had dried into a worse mess than the gum. And he had a wonderful collection of flies and bees.
It had taken much groveling at Yumichika’s feet for the fluttery fifth-seat to give him the help he needed. Immediately afterwards, hair shortened by a good inch or so, Renji pummeled Tetsuzaemon into next year.
Still, that didn’t solve who started it with the gum in the first place.
The incidents had only degenerated from there.
His paperwork had disappeared off his desk, only to reappear in the men’s toilet. He didn’t know how that had happened or how no one else in his division had noticed someone slipping out with piles and piles of unsigned documents.
Then again, who really paid attention to someone coming in with piles and piles of parchment?
He had spent a full day last week wandering around with lollipops stuck to his ass. Someone had attached them to his hakama when he wasn’t looking, and none of his dear and faithful friends could be bothered to let him know about them. It hadn’t been until he sat down for his evening meal that he heard the subsequent crunch and crack.
It had taken him hours of scrubbing to get all the sticky bits off.
The fourth incident had involved a whole array of gooey, squelchy liquid that clung to the bottom of his waraji and consequently everything that he stepped on. He had left little prints of sweet, sticky candy behind him, like a bright green trail for others to follow. Complete with sugar ants. How the trickster had gotten hold of his waraji and done something like that, Renji wouldn’t ever know.
After being forced to spend more than five hours on his hands and knees to scrape off his footprints because Kuchiki-sama-taichou couldn’t abide by the candy marks, Renji was pretty much certain someone was out to get him.
He began a quest to discover the perpetrator.
At first, he tried all the usual suspects. But it was far too subtle for Tetsuzaemon, who preferred dumping extra salt into his food or switching out his drinks when they were at the bar. Ikkaku would rather preserve his candy for bargaining with Yachiru than waste it on pranking his friend. And something as silly as buffoonery was beneath Yumichika. Nor would Izuru do it either.
That left him with little options and no leads to go on.
Disappointed and defeated, Renji eventually found himself at one of his favorite bars, trying to console himself with a hearty drink or two. He made sure to check his waraji and hakama first, however, and was relieved to find that both were free of all sugary substances. Come to think of it, a week had passed since the last incident.
He had to be extra careful then. It was about time for the unknown perpetrator to strike. Once Renji found the bastard, he was going to give him a good wallop for sure. Just as soon as he found him.
“Gimme one, too,” a female voice demanded as a body slid into the seat next to him. A thumb jabbed his direction. “Put it on his tab, please.”
Renji turned his head and immediately met breasts, nearly swallowed by the ample assets. Well, that pretty much identified his mooching companion. Pulling back just a tad so he could breathe, he peered at Matsumoto. Dear kami, was that what Hitsugaya-taichou had to survive every day?
She was grinning at him while awaiting the arrival of her drink. “You look a bit frustrated, Renji,” she stated in that no-nonsense tone of hers, happily accepting the alcohol that was pushed her direction. She downed it the moment it arrived and signaled for another.
Snorting at the obviousness of her statement, Renji reached for his own drink, swirling the sake around and around in the bowl. “You have no fuckin’ idea,” he drawled into the clear alcohol before downing it in one fell swoop.
Matsumoto hummed sympathetically, but it didn’t completely hide the giggle of amusement that escaped her. “Oh, I might,” she trilled, as though amused by her own joke and bumped him with her shoulder again.
Renji’s suspicions began to grow, and he peered at her from the corner of his eyes. She knew something; he was sure of it. Either that or her slight inebriation was making her more giggly and teasing than normal. Then again, it could have easily been both. One was never sure with Rangiku.
He reached over and prodded her with a finger. “Whaddya know, Ran?” he demanded, oh-so-subtly pushing another drink her way with his free hand. Who cared if it was a bribe? “Spill it.”
She took the bribe, gulped it down, and wiggled the empty glass in his direction demonstratively. Muttering a curse under his breath, Renji signaled the bartender for another one and bemoaned the loss of the rest of his pay for this week. Well, if she gave him the goods, it would be worth it.
Predictably, Rangiku refused to speak until she had received the other half of her bribe. “Well,” she said with a toss of strawberry-blond hair over one shoulder. “Rumor has it that a certain icy taichou is a bit perturbed over some recent information that was given to his adoring public.”
Renji blinked. Icy? That could mean either Kuchiki or Hitsugaya. But he had the sneaking suspicion it was the latter. When Rangiku tossed him a look, he urged another drink her direction. It was a silent request for her to continue. Sake and liquor were the easiest ways to get Rangiku to talk.
Matsumoto grinned at him and shook her head, wagging one finger in his direction. “You never should have told all those girls about taichou liking candy. He found out you did it, yanno.”
Renji’s jaw dropped, still taken by surprise. “Hitsugaya-taichou?” he repeated in amazement. “He’s pullin’ pranks on me!”
She winked. “You shouldn’t have said that about him, even if it was true. He took it personally.”
His eyebrows tried to crawl into his hairline. Great. He’d pissed off a captain. Wonderful. It had been a harmless little joke. And it had been Rukia’s idea! But no, all the blame had to fall on Renji. Of course. And now he had a fully angered Hitsugaya Toushirou after him.
A squishy body pressed against his side, accompanied by a giggle as Rangiku breathed on his ear. He would have been interested were it not for the sudden dread of being frozen over in uncomfortable spots.
“I have an idea,” Rangiku practically purred at him, and he got the hint, ordering another sake for her. “You should get your own revenge.”
The idea and subsequent plan had merit. Or perhaps that was just the sake talking. Either way, Renji found himself agreeing with Rangiku and listening to her plan.
Which was why a night and several hours later, he found himself standing in the massive courtyard of the first division, waiting for Matsumoto to do her part. She was supposed to lure her captain there for some reason or another so that Renji could enact his revenge.
There was a trickle of reiatsu on the edge of his senses, riddled with frost and flakes of ice. An uncertain feeling crept up Renji’s spine. He had the sensation of something directly behind him. Frowning, Renji turned around ever so slowly, only to lay eyes on Hitsugaya-taichou, standing just behind him.
The icy captain was smirking at him and in one of his hands, he was carrying a bag of something, Renji couldn’t be sure. The vice-captain blinked and furrowed his brow, wondering just where Rangiku had gone. It was then that he felt the ice creeping over his feet.
Suddenly, Rangiku’s absence made a hell of a lot of sense. He had been set up. And by Rangiku no less. Oh, how the world had turned.
And the chance for escape had long since passed him by. He was now rooted to the spot by a thick rime of ice. He couldn’t even reach for his zanpakutou since it was frozen onto his hip. All he could do was stare at the approaching captain, who looked far too self-satisfied for his own good.
“You know,” the midget began, circling around him like a shark would prey. The bag in his hand rustled. “I’m usually pretty reasonable. But when I am accosted by dozens of teenage girls from the living world, all who want to give me candy because Renji-kun recommended it, I tend to lose my sense of restraint.”
A nervous laugh escaped Renji as he put an apologetic look on his face. He prepared to make his case, but all that came out was a babble of blame and excuses.
“It was Rukia’s idea! I swear it! And really, don’t you think all that candy was enough ’cause-”
His babble ended when Hitsugaya looked at him and more frost crept up his body. He could feel the coldness in his chest, and it made him shiver uncontrollably. He wondered what was in the bag.
“Let this be a lesson to you, Abarai-fukutaichou,” the captain continued in that same placid tone that scarily reminded him of Kuchiki Byakuya. “It would probably be wiser not to listen to Kuchiki-san’s suggestions in the future.”
Renji swallowed thickly and wondered if he was going to die. He watched as ice glimmered in Hitsugaya-taichou’s pale eyes and said his final prayers, cursing Rukia’s very existence.
The bag rattled ominously.
No escaping now.
Twenty minutes later, the first division had a new centerpiece for their courtyard. One formerly red-haired Shinigami, frozen in a rather undignified position and wearing nothing more than an outfit resembling something that would belong to a schoolgirl from the living world. Complete with long, striped socks and bouncy pigtails.
Rangiku made absolutely certain to take pictures. They would be used for blackmail later.
She made absolutely certain to hide. When Renji broke free from the kidoh Hitsugaya-taichou had bound him with, he was going to be out for blood. Most preferably her own.