The story you're about to read is a translation of a long fanfiction of mine, originally in Italian, completed a while ago on the Italian website ; following the advice (and insistence) of a dear friend and both pumped by the enthusiasm for the series' twentieth anniversary, I convinced myself to start publishing 'Crossing' in English as well.
A few notes before getting to it:
- The translation, although "supervised" by yours truly, was all made by my manipulator friend Hypnotic Poison EFP, all the kudos to her – but please bear in mind that we're not native English speakers, so there might be a few mistakes here and there, thank you in advance for your understanding :3
- The Italian fandom has a theory (to this day we don't know whether born from rumors or from some crazy fans), by now almost canon, that the three aliens Pai, Kisshu and Taruto are stepbrothers. To be precise, Pai and Taruto are brothers by birth, while Kisshu was adopted (sometimes he's also a half-brother through one of their parents). This story will follow such theory.
- I know that in the American version/MewMew Power, the aliens have been named 'cyniclons': for plot purposes (I would have had to change a lot of terminology), in this English translation they will be simply called 'aliens'.
- Same goes for 'chimera anima', I kept the names of the original series for the creatures transformed by the aliens and 'para-para' for the parasites (also because I really didn't like the names of the American version! ^-^)
- In the Italian translation of the manga (and generally in the Italian fandom), Bu-Ling Huang's name was translated to Purin Fon. For those who don't know Japanese, it's not technically a mistake, but a request made directly by the author, as the Chinese characters for Bu-Ling's name can also be read in Japanese as 'Purin' (which sound similarly to the Japanese transliteration of 'pudding'). Out of habit, I used and kept the name Purin Fon in this fanfiction as well. I've also used the same transliterations of the other names, I found them more pleasant (so Retasu instead of Lettuce).
I think I've kept you long enough :) Have fun while reading and let me know!
The sizzling of the electric shocks died slowly, echoing like a whisper across the stones and the broken logs. Pai jerked his arm back, irate, panting, his pale face covered in sweat and dust; he glanced towards his left:
"Oi… are you still alive?"
He heard a moan and some swearing, followed by the noise of the rubble that Kisshu moved by getting up: "Alive yes", he mumbled, rubbing his head, "But I am not sure how well… my shoulder's making a weird noise."
Another dull blast was heard, and a strong gush of wind and soil hit them. Kisshu cussed louder: "Can't stupid Eyner just take it easy?"
He shouted and covered his face with his arm, glaring at the massive column of black smoke that was rising in the distance, surrounded by the reddish glare of a fire. Taruto, not far from them, was floating in mid-air, short-breathed:
"Damn…!" he rasped "This smoke's suffocating…!"
They heard a furious scream, and saw a figure being flung towards them and lodging himself in a giant, semi-burnt trunk.
Taruto ran towards him, holding his bleeding right arm, and he leaned over the crack that was showing only a pair of pale legs.
"Are you… are you all in one piece, Eyner?"
Kisshu and Pai joined them, while the man called Eyner struggled to sit up:
"I… think so," he whispered "But I didn't expect them to use my own technique against me…"
The earth suddenly quaked under their feet; the roar of the fire pierced the air, and their surroundings seemed to implode towards the point where the flames were gathering; there, a small drop of clear and blinding light was becoming more and more limpid. The light rose slowly, contrasting the red flames with its dazzling color and showing clearly a dark silhouette that was laughing, coarse and satisfied.
For once, no one commented on Taruto's language. The four boys lunged like furies towards the figure, their faces white of fear.
They could not let him run away!
Kisshu heard the air hiss when he slashed it with his sai, and the clangor of its blade against the enemy's was muffled by a graver roar of fire.
"Don't interfere further, Ikisatashi", the figure said, "You have already stained His name enough with your blasphemous behavior."
Kisshu clicked his tongue with disdain. He stayed still with his opponent, only the arms holding the sai trembling slightly. He fixed his golden irises into the enemy's cerulean ones: they slaughtered him with cold rage behind the edge of an axe, brushed by a golden fringe; Kisshu instinctively gritted his teeth, furious.
How could it be that that specific color combination would always cause his bile to boil over?
"Interfere?" he hissed with a sneer, "Actually, I was thinking of finishing you off. "
He broke the enemy's guard and threw himself against him in the exact moment his companions reached him. He caught a glimpse of the enemy backup, but he ignored them: he only had to focus on getting back the sphere he was holding, right away.
The blades clashed and screeched in the uproar of the fire, and the earth shook stronger, like a floor caving in without its foundations. Kisshu's opponent smiled sardonically:
"It's useless you insist. It's fate, we'll fix everything now."
In response, Kisshu screamed wildly and plunged his arms towards his rival's abdomen: the weapon on the right missed the flesh, and he felt it only meet the light resistance of fabric, while the left one collided against something hard, but it was not the enemy axe.
The blade wedged in the smooth surface of the gem with an imperceptible creaking; both contenders froze, admiring the light that was shining from the object suddenly vanish, then twirl like a dense haze and expand as quickly.
The air and the fire easily died out, not even as if they had belonged to a match, and the noise of the flames and of the shakes disappeared as well.
And then everything went ablaze once again.
An unbearable light exploded, surrounding all of them, a violent pressure crushed the remaining vegetation and hurled them far from the minuscule and bright globe. Kisshu landed violently on the ground that was again shaking from the earthquake, and he rolled down for meters, the rubble scratching every available inch of skin, uncapable of understanding where that energy was pushing him, where Taruto, Pai, and Eyner were, where his enemies were. He could only feel, rather than see, the shining sphere completely break and scatter everywhere in rainbow-colored trails.
If he hadn't risked getting his mouth full of dirt, he would have yelled profanities worthy of the worst sailor.
It was inevitable. People with blue eyes and blonde hair were always bad luck for him.
Ichigo, can you hear me?
"Who are you?
I… know you?"
A familiar figure. Tall. Strong.
But she did not know exactly who they were: she felt as if she had a veil in front of her eyes, or as if she was looking through a clouded glass.
She was sure, however, that she knew that voice.
It's been so long, my darling.
"Who are you?
It looked like he was smiling melancholically to her.
Listen to me, Ichigo.
I don't have much time!
She wanted to protest. Say that she wouldn't obey anyone without a valid reason.
But their voice…
It was so familiar and comforting. And it was deeply worried, filled with urgency.
It was true.
She had to listen carefully.
She nodded, and the little bell at her neck rang clearly.
You will have to be strong, Ichigo.
Don't run away from the challenge, even if it will seem difficult.
"Challenge? What challenge?
I have nothing to fight now…!"
You will have to.
You will have to, my darling Ichigo.
But don't be afraid, you will be alright.
Remember this. Whatever they will tell you, whatever you will see…
I am not him.
And I am not Him.
Who are you not?"
He gestured not to interrupt him and insisted more vehemently.
Fight them, Ichigo!
She saw him move towards her.
Even so close, she could not see him well; he appeared engulfed into a strong source of light that was blurring his outline.
He looked at her for a few seconds. He lightly put a hand on her shoulder and kissed her forehead, making her shiver.
He had soft lips, but cold as ice.
Or the bottom of the ocean…
Dark and deep…
Where had she felt that already?
I hope I will be able to see you again.
He suddenly disappeared like smoke.
Everything around her went dark, and a precise yet incomprehensible image appeared.
A small sphere of iridescent light flew up a few dozen meters from her, high above, and higher still; it shone, quivered and throbbed, then it broke up in drops that shot in all directions.
She wanted to understand what was happening, where those small shiny tears were going, but the light was too strong, everything was turning white…
When her hand collided with her alarm clock, it sent the poor thing to crash onto the floor with a sharp crack of plastic.
"Ichigo, honey!" Sakura's voice, from behind the door, sounded exasperated "Could you please try not to destroy another clock? Now get up, or you'll be late!"
The red-haired girl again moved the arm that was sticking out of the covers, waving it like a wind vane, and grunting peeped out of her lair, her hair sticking out in all possible directions.
She rubbed her bleary eyes while looking out of the window, a bright sun and the cheerful chirping of birds announcing another beautiful spring day.
She felt stunned, she felt like she had spoken to someone… someone important…
She ruffled her bangs and yawned, it must had been a dream.
But she remembered the small and bright light that had broken in front of her eyes.
It was inevitable, she knew exactly what it was.
She kept thinking about it, while she started washing herself and getting dressed. Once back from the bathroom, she threw her pajama on the bed, put on clean underwear and stood in front of the full mirror, ready to wear her uniform; her hand was already holding the coat hanger, when something caught her attention.
A pink birthmark, unusually shaped like a heart with two cats' tails on top, winked at her from her inner thigh. The red-haired frowned:
"Why did I dream of the Mew Aqua?"
"What? You all dreamt it too?!"
Her friends looked at her gravely, nodding. Ichigo didn't reply, staring at them with her mouth wide open.
In those three years, she had forgotten how to be used to weird things.
For a long time now, the Mew Team had stopped fighting aliens, and even though she and her friends had never lost their powers – as their marks were demonstrating and how, at least every fortnight, the ginger never forgot to remind Ryo, inveighing against him – they had not had to face fights or mortal perils of any kind.
Things had taken a calm, banal, and very much desired turn towards calmness: high school, the everyday routine with her family, Masaya; even that part-time job at the Café, now exactly only a part-time job, had gone on, but nothing more than that.
Ichigo violently shook her head, making her maid's headband wobble dangerously:
"Oh, come on!" she complained meowing "I have just started my second year a couple of weeks ago, I cannot deal with other problems!"
"Ichigo, stop being hysteric, we don't know if it's a problem yet."
She glared at Minto, who replied with a grimace of resigned superiority. Even after three years, her friend could drive Ichigo nuts as the first day they met.
"What if it's a big, huge problem?!"
The brown-haired girl ignored her, fixing behind her ear a strand of hair that had escaped from the loose chignon in which she had started wearing it, now too long for her usual two buns.
"Maybe it's just a coincidence."
Retasu tried to soften her up, albeit with not much confidence herself. Ichigo gave her a half smile, the sweetness of that girl was one of the few things that could stop her from going into a fit of rage.
"Maybe we ate too much?"
Purin laughed, but the others' expressions did not show the will to give any credit to that silly thing; they all sighed together, even if now the blonde girl had grown to be their height, she had stayed the same nave rascal, and that was often stressful.
"What are you even saying?"
"Anyways, I do not believe in coincidences."
Zakuro bluntly commented. The other four girls leaned towards the laptop on the table, turning it to better see the mewwolf; she was sitting on the other side of the monitor, an elegant hotel room as her background, her elbow on the table and her face hidden behind her hand in a pensive manner.
"By now, I have learned that some things are not casual accidents," she went on, severe, "And if it's about aliens, powers, and above all, the Mew Aqua, even less."
"But why should we have dreamt of the Mew Aqua? And all five of us too!" Ichigo piled it on, alarmed, "There isn't a drop of it left on Earth, and the part that Kisshu and the others took… who knows how many hundreds of light years away it is!"
"Maybe we dreamt of the Mew Aqua, but it meant something else?"
Nobody replied to Minto, whose sentence was muffled by meditative grunts.
"… maybe we should speak with Shirogane-kun and Akasaka-san…"
"… I don't know, Retasu," replied Ichigo, biting her lower lip "If anything weird had popped up, they would have told us after all… to bring this up…"
"Are you afraid to discover something disturbing, o you simply don't want to meddle in a potential new problem?"
Minto hissed. Ichigo yelled against her, tail and ears sprouting up under her skirt and in her hair:
"Excuse me, miss 'boring-life', I would be happy to remain untroubled!"
"First of all, mine was a very serious question, you wouldn't need to get upset so much if you didn't have a guilty conscience," she pointed out "Second of all, my life is great as it is."
"Alright, now stop, you guys!"
"Retasu onee-chan is right," Purin added "And going back to the main topic… if you'd rather let it go, I think it would be okay: as Ichigo onee-chan said, if anything was indeed going on Shirogane onii-chan and Akasaka onii-san would have surely told us. So, for the time being, we can set the matter aside."
The girls all sent each other glances without replying to her. After a while, Zakuro sighed:
"Alright. If you prefer, for now we can leave it, but let's keep an eye out on it, got it?"
They all nodded yes.
"By the way!" Minto's face changed, and smiling radiantly she got closer to the screen "Onee-sama, when are you coming back from the States?"
"I'm leaving in a few hours," the brunette smiled "I'll be getting in tomorrow. So I thought it better to call you beforehand."
She winked at them and then stopped, called by an authoritative voice speaking in English; she replied with her usual calm and her perfect accent, then sighing she turned back to the monitor:
"Gotta go now. I'll keep my cell on for as long as possible, let's keep in touch for anything."
"See you soon, Zakuro-san!"
She smiled to Ichigo and turned off her laptop. The other girls looked at the screen, where only the empty chat window was showing, now a bit more relaxed.
"Well, Zakuro-san will be here too tomorrow," Retasu smiled "Why don't we focus on our work and we talk about it again tomorrow?"
The others nodded, calmer now. The bell above the Café's entrance rang, signaling that someone had opened the door, and while Purin took the laptop away, the others welcomed the new clients, starting another work afternoon.
Yes, they needn't worry.
It had only been a dream.
"Reta-chan, what's going on? Are you still in dreamland?"
The green-haired girl blinked a couple of times, staring confusedly at her companion.
"You've been standing there frozen for the past two minutes," the other protested "What's up, do you have a love letter hidden in your locker?"
Retasu, still holding her shoes, looked at her stunned and blushed all at once:
"What are you saying?!" she whined, grasping her indoor shoes "So silly! I was just thinking…"
She laughed nervously and put on the slippers, while her friend looked at her suspiciously and distractedly fixed her bright red hair, cut in a sharp bob:
"If you say so… but you stood straight as a pole holding your shoes for a lifetime, I thought there was something interesting there."
And while she was speaking, she glimpsed into her friend's locker, puffing disappointed when she saw that it was, indeed, empty.
"Ayumi-chan, could you please not peek into other people's stuff?"
"Uff!" Ayumi closed the door with a sharp bang "Never any juicy news! "
Retasu did not even reply, and, smiling, headed towards her classroom alongside her companion.
She had met Ayumi the year before through the school knitting club, and they had become friends soon. Retasu would have never dreamed of it: Ayumi was a strong girl, with an exuberant temper, maybe sometimes too aggressive and direct, but for these reasons very admired by the Mewporpoise, so timid and passive; she could never think that those characteristics of hers, her leniency, her discretion, her excessive kindness, were in fact admired by the red-haired schoolmate and that would actually make her gain her friendship, somehow.
Retasu was beyond happy about it, and Ayumi was also very liked by the rest of her friends; they would often all meet to go out together, and at school they had formed a nice trio with Ichigo, that was attending the same high school.
"Ah, the men in this school really are blind."
Ayumi exhaled, making Retasu smile timidly.
"That locker should be full of letters!"
"What are you saying, Ayumi-chan."
"It's true!" she replied vehemently "You're so cute and sweet! You should receive a love declaration a day!"
"Ayu, you're being delirious…"
Replied Retasu, blushing. Ayumi sighed deeply and, changing her mood with her usual rapidity, smiled happily and started rubbing herself against Retasu's shoulder.
"Anyways, it's better like this, or I would have to exterminate a race of idiots ready to hover around you."
She brushed decisively against the green's uniform, and Retasu only smiled, half uncomfortably and half tenderly; surely, hanging out with Ayumi had made her a little less hesitant, until a few years before she would have panicked for a similar behavior from a friend.
"And in this way, all the attention and the leftover pastries from your home economy class will be all mine!" she sing-sang, brushing against her neck as well "Mmmh, you're too good at stuff like that!"
"Eh eh, then we shall share the next sponge cakes, okay?"
"Yes!" Ayumi hugged her by the shoulders "Ah, look at that smile! You're the emblem of the perfect wife!"
"Please, Reta-chan, marry me!"
"A-A-Ayumi-chan, what are you saying!?"
Ayumi smiled back, without letting her go; she really had that idea of Retasu, but it was also fun to tease her a bit.
"You're so cuuuute!" she laughed happily "And…"
With a wicked grin, she grasped Retasu's breasts with both hands, making her shriek alarmed.
"Look at these! They grew during the holidays! How the hell do you do it?!" she complained "I started eating what you eat, but mine are staying as flat as a surfboard!"
Retasu did not reply, red as a lobster and apparently catatonic.
"Ayu, stop harassing Retasu! You're giving her a heart attack."
Ichigo's protests obtained their desired effect, at least partially, and Ayumi let go of Retasu, holding only her arm. The green-haired girl smiled to the mewneko, trying to ignore the astonished faces of their schoolmates that were staring at them.
Ayumi nodded to the red-hair and grunted:
"I will have to assess yours too, you know, smartass," she said, her face getting more serious "I wonder what you and Aoyama got up to during the spring holidays…"
"Firstly, it wouldn't be any of your business, but in any way, what are you even thinking?!"
"Well, everyone knows that when some things happen," Ayumi replied with the tone of an expert "Girls become prettier, both in their bodies and in their faces. And the breasts go and ri-ise…"
She concluded in a singsong.
"What's the topic?"
"Ichigo-chan and Aoyama-kun getting to third base."
"What!? Ichigo, this is how you tell us!?"
"Masaya-kun and I didn't get anywhere! – the girl hissed through gritted teeth, managing to hold back her ears and tails by the grace of who knows what celestial power – Moe! Miwa!"
She stared shocked at her two longtime friends, who had popped up behind them. Both them and Ayumi looked at her suspiciously:
"Yanagida-chan, Honjo-chan, do you believe her?"
"Not one bit, Kotegawa-chan!"
"Come on, Ichigo, spill it!"
"I swear nothing happened!" she screeched, desperate "For real! You can even check, I have nothing to hide, my boobs are the same!"
"As much as I imagine someone might be interested in your development," coughed a stern voice, freezing her on the spot, "I don't think this is the right moment, nor place, to talk about it. "
Ichigo turned slowly, pale, and only wished to be devoured by the floor:
"And the bell is about to ring, Ms. Momomiya," the man went on undaunted, fixing his tie "Given your average of tardiness, I wouldn't waste the opportunity to feel the thrill of being at your desk, at the beginning of class."
She guiltily lowered her head and mumbled a yes; the man passed the little group and the bell went off, pushing everyone in their classrooms.
"I swear," Ichigo muttered at the apex of shame, looking at her friends who were trying not to laugh "I swear you will pay for it, all three of you!"
She went into the class, head low, followed by Moe and Miwa, while Ayumi and Retasu headed two doors down.
Retasu kept smiling uncomfortably, while Ayumi grinned:
"Teasing Ichigo-chan is almost a hundred times better than teasing you!"
Retasu mumbled; Ayumi glanced at her:
"Was it too much?"
She reassured her, and the red-haired grinned slyly:
"Good. And I think you're better," she winked at the friend's confused expression "You looked worried this morning."
Retasu stared at her, surprised, and smiled:
"It's not a big deal", she comforted her "Anyways, it's all better now. Thank you."
Ayumi smiled and went to take her seat.
The class started, and Retasu diligently began to take notes, even though her mind was running afar with particular ease.
She was indeed thinking about something that morning, a thing that had not stopped tormenting her since the day before, the dream on the Mew Aqua. She had a weird feeling about it, but given the others' reaction, she had preferred keeping it to herself. After all, they were probably right, it was just a dream.
But Zakuro didn't seem sure of it, and she had great trust in her friend's intuition.
It wasn't just the dream that was worrying her, but also what she had dreamed.
The others had all said they had opened their eyes before seeing where the lights were heading; she, instead, had woken up a few moments later, late enough to see one of the shiny trails rush straight to her and dissolve against her chest.
That thought was not leaving her alone, why only her? Maybe it was just another coincidence and she had simply woken up a few minutes late?
But all these coincidences are starting to be a bit much…
She jumped when she felt something light hit the back of her head, and she saw a folded piece of paper fall on her desk; it said "from Ayumi".
She covered herself with her pencil case and opened the paper.
Today's thought… it wasn't about Shirogane, was it?
Retasu bit her lip while reading, then smiled softly. Ayumi was always so thoughtful with her. She grabbed her pen and replied right below, sending it back.
No, don't worry. You know, I'm over it now.
Retasu knew pretty well that Ryou liked Ichigo; truth to be told, she thought everybody knew, apart for the redhead in question.
Even knowing this, however, she had not been capable of withholding her feelings.
It had happened a bit before the third-year middle school diploma, on a sunny afternoon. They had been alone at the Café, Retasu couldn't say if by chance or because her friends had noticed how agitated she had been for days and days and they had sensed something; she had waited for the so-called right moment, but it had never come, and in the end the words had escaped on their own:
"I know you already care for someone!" she could remember her trembling voice, the legs that felt ready to give up "But… but I like you. I like you for real."
She didn't know where she had found the strength to say it and then remain still to stare at those wonderful blue eyes. Ryo had looked at her without a word, and she had continued:
"Couldn't I… couldn't I be close to you?"
The sentence had died up in a puff while she had bowed her head unable to look at him yet. Ryou had not answered, but had stroked her head kindly:
"You know I cannot say yes," he had whispered sadly "It wouldn't be fair."
He had tilted her head back and stroked softly her cheek. Retasu had thought he was anxious, and maybe even sad:
"I care for you a lot, but it's not what you're asking of me."
She had nodded. She understood, of course she did, but that care towards her didn't but strengthen the affection she felt for him, and at the same time it was breaking her heart.
She had not been able to hold back her tears, which he had dried with kindness:
She had shaken her head without managing to say anything more; she had silently cried for endless minutes and Ryou had never left, staying beside her and comforting her until she had calmed down. Even in the following days he had been maybe too sweet and apprehensive with her; Retasu had not been surprised by that, she knew very well that behind Ryou's venomous tongue a very kind person was hiding.
She had fallen in love with him also because of that.
But all those attentions were only making her feel worse.
For days she had secretly cried, careful not to be discovered, and when the tears had dried up, only sadness was left. She had tried to hide it, but it was difficult to deceive Ichigo and the others, Ayumi included.
"Aren't we friends?!" she had exploded one day, when they were coming back from the club, "So you have to share with me both the fun things and the troubles!"
In the end, she had had to confess everything, and she had to admit that, afterwards, she had felt lighter. Slowly, her heartbreak had dwindled down and, now, she could say that she had forgotten her first, disappointing true love. Of course, she wasn't totally indifferent to Ryo, she kept thinking of him as a wonderful person and – she blushed anytime she thought of that – a handsome boy, but he was a friend; a special friend from whom she felt a reciprocated deep fondness, but only a friend.
Retasu felt another hit at her neck, and she opened the new message from Ayumi.
Alright. You know, every now and then you get the blues when we talk about him, I always worry.
That's how I am, you know that.
I know. And it's my duty to worry.
Retasu laughed, almost getting caught by the professor. She hid and lowered her head until her nose was brushing against her notebook, red in the face, and when she was sure not to be seen, she replied to her friend.
Thank you 3 Anyways, I was just sleepy this morning, that's it.
She was sorry she could not be completely truthful, but it was out of the question to involve Ayumi into the Mew Mew topic; even less now that there might be new dangers in the future.
Mmmm… you're not thinking of someone new, are you? ^-^
Retasu blushed in a matter of seconds.
What's gotten into you!?
Why? It wouldn't be bad ;3
Well, there's no one I like!
You could take a look around, no?
Retasu sighed, Ayumi was really banging on that!
Then Ayu-chan will look for you ;)
What are you saying!?
^w^ I know exactly what type Retasu-chan likes! A handsome guy (like everyone ;P!), taller and maybe older! And obviously very smart, you like nerds xP!
Even from behind her, Ayumi could see Retasu turn burgundy.
I am right, I am right! XD I bet you're already thinking of someone, correct? 3
And frustrated, Retasu balled up the paper and hid it in the deepest corner of her case, finishing the conversation. She hated how well Ayumi knew her, it was not fair! And it was embarrassing to read about her own tastes like that, displayed on two short lines.
Am I that… obvious?
She puffed; she would need the whole hour now to get her concentration back! It was all Ayu and her silly proposals' fault!
She would never admit it, but she had indeed thought of someone.
He was surely taller than her, back then he was a whole head taller! And she didn't think he had shrunk, with time.
Smart? A lot, maybe too much.
She couldn't guess his age, but she was almost sure he was older, maybe also because of all his composure…
Rigidity is the most appropriate term. Icy.
She had to stop at that thought. She called herself silly, because she was blushing.
Why was she thinking of that image?
A smile. The only one she had ever seen on him.
A true, kind smile.
Retasu felt the umpteenth hit to her head and sighed annoyed, unfolding the new piece of paper.
You'll tell me the name later, okay?
In response, that little note was too devoured by the pencil case.
She had to relax, right now she was agitated and therefore her thoughts were confusing her. She had no reason to think of Pai, she had never thought of him. Moreover, now he and the others were who knew where in a super far away place in space, so why did it matter?
She forced herself to follow the lesson and, to her great satisfaction, soon all her worries were absorbed by chemical formulas.
That's how her life was supposed to be.
Calm and boring, but serene.
"So, nothing? The usual calm and boring holiday?"
"Yes, the usual calm and boring holiday!" Ichigo burst out, now at the end of her patience "If you're done with your third degree about me and my boyfriend now, I would like to go say hi to him before I have to go to work!"
And she ran away from Moe and Miwa, who wished her goodbye with very unsatisfied faces.
Because of her, the others had tormented her all day about her and Masaya, craving to discover at all costs any hot detail of their relationship, and there had been no way of making them understand that no development had happened in that sense.
I don't believe it! had been the most popular sentence.
The redhead sighed; did they believe she liked that? And yet it was just like that.
They had been dating for more than three years, and still…
"Ichigo! I'm here!"
She jerked and smiled widely, seeing Masaya in his kendo attire waving at her from the gym's exit. She ran to him like a puppy, delighted to see him in his uniform: the longer they stayed together, the more handsome she found him!
"How has your day been, baby?"
"Now that I see you, great!"
She smiled happily; he radiantly reciprocated, shily:
"And you? All good?"
"The usual… are you working at the Café today?"
"Yeah," she mumbled gloomy "I will be alone with Minto and Purin… Zakuro-san is still traveling and Retasu has club stuff today."
"I understand," he patted her head, making her meow "Try not to get too upset, okay?"
She giggled and nodded. Masaya lowered his hand and they stared in each other's eyes; they were extremely close, and Ichigo felt her heart almost explode:
He smiled, grasped her chin with two fingers and lightly pecked her lips, for less than a minute.
"I have to go now," he said, apologetic "I will call you as soon as I'm done, okay?"
She nodded, still dreamy, and started longingly at him until he disappeared behind the gym's doors, then she went her way. She hadn't even travelled a hundred meters that the enthusiasm for that kiss had vanished already, leaving her with the trouble that had gripped her for a while.
Of course, getting to third base…!
They were for sure madly in love, Ichigo had no doubts; and Masaya was sweet and thoughtful, he would never make her crave affection or attention. Yes, Ichigo could easily say she was very, very happy with him.
"How is it possible," she cried to herself "That there's never a jolt of passion?!"
When they had started going out, they were still young enough to restrain themselves to a few cuddles and hugs, but now they were in high school! And there hadn't been one time, one single time, when they had pushed it a little further. Not even a kiss worthy of such name.
She obviously did not want him to jump her, but she did not deny she would have loved to see that he wanted her, or that at least he could let the slighted desire be felt.
On her part, Ichigo – even if she felt a bit like a maniac thinking about it – really wanted them to take a step forward, but she didn't know anymore how to make him understand that; the boy appeared impermeable to any kind of subliminal message, in that sense.
She sighed; she felt guilty having that kind of thoughts. Masaya was basically the perfect boyfriend, and yet she still found reasons to complain.
And then, complain about what? Wasn't it beautiful to have a boyfriend that didn't try to cop a feel under her clothes, that worried about her every single need and treated her like a princess?
It was amazing. At least on paper.
But, and denying it to herself was becoming increasingly difficult, sweetness was not enough; she wanted more, it was needed, and she didn't think she could hide it for much longer.
Especially since when…
Her thoughts stopped along with her steps; something had caught her attention, not a sound, but a sort of vibration through the air that was making her feline sixth sense go crazy. Attached as usual to her backpack, little Masha started flying and grew:
"Ichigo, Ichigo, what's happening pii?"
"I don't know…"
She whispered. Her brown eyes were attracted by a point beyond the trees on her right, in the center of the park: there, in the endless bright blue of the sky, the air was trembling like when it's very warm, for no apparent reason.
"… Come with me, Masha."
"Kei, what's happening?"
"I don't know," he replied alarmed, "Let me verify."
The computers' sensors were going crazy: a cacophony of syncopated beeps had exploded, while the monitors were shaking, disturbed by a weird static.
"A huge source of energy, and yet so disorganized…!" Keiichiro was surprised and scared like he had not been in a while "I can't understand its nature… wait!"
A monitor started functioning again and sent out a precise signal, now well known to both Ryo and Keiichiro. The blonde-haired boy paled:
"That's not possible…"
"There's no mistake." Kei replied seriously "We have to alert the girls now!"
"Call them, I will try to get in touch with Zakuro, hoping that she landed already."
It took Ichigo less than five minutes to reach her destination. Little Masha kept flying around her, chirping out of fear, but she was not paying attention to his acute calls.
In front of her, invisible if not from that position, stood what looked like a giant tunnel of white light; it was impossible to understand if it was flat or going deep in, given how bright it was, and Ichigo thought no one had noticed its presence.
Maybe I can see it because of the sixth sense I get from the Iriomote Cat's DNA?
"Ichigo! It's scary, Ichigo! Let's go away, piii!"
But she wasn't scared.
She slowly raised an arm and stretched it in front of her: she wanted to touch it, to touch that opalescent surface, understand…
"Weren't you taught you cannot touch things you don't know?"
She yelled when a pale hand popped out of the white tunnel and clasped her wrist; she fell back, terrified, pulling out with her what was attached to that hand, which had started to laugh:
"You're always the same, Ichigo."
She opened her eyes wide at that voice, looking at the shape of the man that was floating out of nowhere; she almost fell on the ground with astonishment, while he moved away the dark green bangs, now longer than she remembered.
"It's been ages, my sweet pussycat!"