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Tipping Point

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By the time the Soul Society gets another camera on Rukia's tail, the situation has changed so much that Renji isn't even sure what's going on anymore. Rukia's friends have been attacked one by one by an unknown enemy, leaving some in the hospital, like her roommate and the guy in the glasses, and the three other strangely unharmed. But it isn't until the others mention some guy named Tsukishima that Rukia seems to realize something.

"Tsuki...shima?" she repeats, eyes unnaturally wide.

Her brown-haired friend smiles at her and offers her another cookie from a tin. Rukia declines.

"Yeah, I was thinking of calling up Tsukishima-san," the girl says, offering the tin to the dark-skinned big guy and the karate girl before sitting down at the table in her small kitchen beside them. "He always knows what to do."

"That's actually not a bad idea," the big guy rumbles, a cup of steaming tea dwarfed in his large hands. "This seems like exactly the sort of thing Tsukishima-san would know how to deal with."

"That's what I told Ichigo the other day, but he didn't have any clue what I was talking about," the karate girl complains, rolling her eyes in exasperation. "Honestly, that guy...forgetting his own cousin! I'm surprised he even manages to find his way down the street some days."

"Mou, Tatsuki-chan, that's mean!" the brown-haired girl protests, but Rukia isn't paying attention, her eyes still widened in horror.

"Kuchiki-san?" the big guy asks, concerned. "Is there something wrong?"

Rukia opens her mouth and closes it, looking completely thrown.

"I...who is-" She stops, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before opening them again. "No, I...I have to go."

She gets up slowly, staring at them all as if she barely recognizes them anymore, backing away towards the door.

"Kuchiki-san?" karate girl says, starting to get up. "Are you okay?"

"Yes!" Rukia bursts out, obviously lying. "Yes, I just remembered...I have to go."

"I'll come with you," the big guy says, starting to rise from his seat. "None of us should be walking around alone if someone's targeting us."

"No! I am fine!" Rukia says quickly, stumbling to get her shoes on fast enough. "Do not bother, I will just...just stay here, alright! It might be nothing but I must...I will call you, yes?"

She flies out of the room before any of them have a change to reply, taking her gikon pill out of her bag as she runs down the stairs of the brown-haired girl's apartment building. She separates from her gigai quickly and then leaps up onto a nearby telephone poll.

"Go home!" she instructs the gikon, looking panicked. "When Ichigo comes, tell him...I do not care, make something up."

"Rukia-sama," the gikon says, blinking up at her with its wide Rukia eyes. "Are you alright, pyon?"

"Go!" Rukia hisses in reply and then she's in shunpo again and the green haired girl curses.

"Why don't they make these things any faster?" she mutters as the camera lags behind, scribbling down more notes.

"Budget cuts," the kid in the glasses says darkly.

"Please, like you know," pigtailed girl says disdainfully. "You're just saying that because Kurotsuchi-taich-"

"Oi," Renji says from the back of the small, dark room, pointing at the screen.

Rukia has run into the glasses guy on a rooftop and Renji curses the camera's slowness as they talk for a few seconds without audio.

"...hospital?" Rukia is saying, hands on her sword.

"Inoue-san healed me," glasses guys replies, frowning at her wariness and there's something wrong with this picture, but Renji can't seem to place it.

"Tsukishima," Rukia says without preamble.

"Who?"

Rukia lets out a gasp of relief and reaches up to cover her scarred face with a shaking hand.

"Kuchiki-san?" glasses guy says worriedly, looking at her carefully. "Are you alright?"

"Tsukishima," Rukia repeats. "He is the one behind it. The one who attacked you, Inoue, Chad, and probably Arisawa as well."

Glasses guy looks shocked. "How-"

"He has done something to them," Rukia hisses. "Messed with their memories somehow. They think he is their friend!"

Glasses guy's eyes widen and he says something, but Renji never hears what because the tiniest member of the surveillance team suddenly realizes what's wrong with this situation.

"Hey," he says, dropping his papers on the table in front of the monitor in shock. "He can see her?"

"She's in shinigami form!" the green haired girl shouts and dives for another stack papers. "He knows who she is? But I thought-"

"Shut up!" Renji snaps, just as shocked as the rest of them, but more interested in what is happening on the screen.

The surveillance team falls silent at his words and turns back to the screen.

"Where's Kurosaki?" glasses guy is saying.

"He is at his father's clinic, helping out," Rukia replies, waving a hand at him impatiently. "He should be safe there. I was going to see Urahara-sama-"

"CONFIRMATION!" pigtailed girl shouts, making a grab for another huge folder, but Renji is too shocked by the current developments to properly react to true confirmation that Rukia is involved with the infamous Urahara Kisuke.

"Quiet!" everyone else yells.

"We don't have time for that!" glasses guy grits his teeth. "If they've gotten to Inoue-san and everyone, we have to move fast. They'll be after us next. I don't know why my memories haven't been changed, but we know their goal is Kurosaki. We have to confront them before this gets any worse."

Rukia looks like she wants to protest, but then a determined look comes over his face, one Renji hasn't seen since they were children.

"Right," she says, crossing her arms over her chest in that inherently masculine way that comes from growing up with four other boys. "What is your plan, Ishida?"

"I've been hearing strange rumours about Naruki City lately," Ishida says. "We should start there. But, Kuchiki-san," he continues seriously. "If they've gotten to everyone else, especially Sado-kun and Inoue-san, we have to seriously think about the possibility that we might have to go through them as well."

Renji stares. From the way he worded it, it sounds like-but it can't be-"Wait...is he saying..."

"They have spiritual power too!" glasses surveillance team member interrupts loudly. "What the hell? Who are these people?"

Rukia and the Ishida kid leap to the next building, even the kid moving at a speed no ordinary human could match. They quickly fade out of sight and Renji curses under his breath.

"Don't worry, we have a good handle on Kuchiki's reiatsu," the green-haired says quickly, running over to the control panel in front of the screen and messing with some buttons. "We can track her."

"Right," Renji says, rising from his seat. "This is getting out of control. You," he says, pointing to the tiny kid. "Stay here with her. The rest of you come with me and bring the last ten minutes of the tape."

"Abarai-taichou, we have to report this to our captain fir-"

"Idiots!" Renji says harshly and they cower a little. "There's no time for that! Didn't you hear what they said? They're having a confrontation now and if we're going to do anything about it, we have to get this information to the Head Captain before that happens! Now come!"

At the time, Renji honestly isn't thinking of the consequence of this simple action. He thinks about Rukia in danger, about the threat of Urahara Kisuke, these not-so normal after all human friends of hers, and even this mysterious "Tsukishima". He is so sick of inaction, of watching Rukia's inexplicable life go by, and so he acts before he thinks it through.

Later, he'll wonder what exactly he started.