Masaya Aoyama accepted an offer to participate in a special environmental science studies program in England as a first step in pursuing his lifelong dream. Ichigo Momomiya is willing to provide su...
Chapter 1: A Grand Opportunity
First of all, I am following the storyline of the manga written and illustrated by two wonderful artists and storytellers--- Mia Ikumi and Reiko Yoshida. Second, this story takes place just a few weeks (and months) after Ichigo Momomiya's final battle one-on-one with the destructive Deep Blue (whom we all know as the young and affectionate Masaya Aoyama), a few months before the Mew Mew team decided to throw a “mock” wedding for Ichigo and Masaya moments before Masaya leaves for his study abroad program in England, and a few months before we meet the newest Mew Mew, Berry Shirayuki, featured in the sequel, Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode. There are also two versions of this fanfic to suit all fans: the original version and the Mew Mew Power version (in which the names--- only the names--- are changed) if anyone requests it. I have a version of that too (but keep in mind that the only thing that's different are the characters' names).
Since the departure of the aliens and the emotional defeat of their destructive, menacing leader, Deep Blue, the world went back to its normal state. People continued to live their everyday lives, enjoying the peace and their adapted environment, just like the brink of Armageddon never arrived. But at the same time, those who knew about this highly catastrophic event also learned many lessons that can be useful in their futures.
Twelve-year-old daffy middle school student Ichigo Momomiya was no exception. Though she finally understood what it truly means to be in love, what the term true love means, and the importance of friendship among her fellow Mew Mew teammates and her superiors that guided them to their victorious battles, she felt something missing. It was not as if she and those involved in the Mew Mew Project moved on with their lives as they still work and manage the very hot spot known as Cafe Mew Mew, but there was something else that she felt that she needed to do, even if her Mew Mew powers was put to sleep.
Ichigo sat on her desk being contemplative about these thoughts while the rest of her classmates mind their own business during their lunch time. Her best friends, Miwa Honjo and Moe Yanagida, sat at their desks next to her as always, looking worried about their friend being silent again. The two girls turned to each other, wondering what was worrying Ichigo this time.
“Hey,” Miwa waved her hands right in front of Ichigo's eyes. “Hello, Earth to Ichigo! You haven't said a single word ever since lunch!”
“Huh?” Ichigo gasped and found herself awake at the real world again. “Oh, sorry.” She gazed down at her lunch box and began to take her first few bites.
“What gives, Ichigo?” Moe leaned against her seat and crossed her arms with worry. “You're kind of distant today. Is there something wrong?”
“Is it about Aoyama-kun, Ichigo?” Miwa added in curiosity.
Ichigo burst out her giggles softly and smiled at the two. “Oh nothing, nothing about Masaya. Nothing like that at all! I was just thinking of something else, that's all.”
“Really? Man, you almost got us worried, girl!” Moe chuckled while Miwa sighed in relief. “I mean, you and Aoyama-kun are really getting hot and heavy every time we see you guys together, you know? You don't want the entire school to start making buzzes and rumors about the two of you, you know? It's like you guys are an ideal couple!”
“Agreed,” Miwa joined in the soft laughs. “Ever since your first date at the museum with him months ago you've seriously become my hero.”
Ichigo joined in the laughs with her friends and continued to eat her lunch. After she finished chewing, she changed the subject. “Actually I kind of feel like there's something else I need to do but I'm not really sure what that is yet, you know? I mean, have you guys ever get the feeling where you feel you've got everything but at the same time there's something else you had to do but you had no idea what that is?”
Miwa and Moe nodded and continued to listen. “Well, I'm in that mode right now. I don't really know how to explain it but, um, yeah.”
“Wow, like, what could that possibly be, Ichigo? I hope you're not like getting bored with Aoyama-kun or anything, I mean you completely own his heart and vice versa.” Miwa answered quickly. “Or maybe it's something a lot more hot and heavy than that, hmm?”
The two girls nudged Ichigo with their elbows gently with snickers on their faces. “You guys, that's not it! I... I'm not ready for that stuff yet and I'm sure Masaya isn't ready for that stuff either. I mean, we've got a whole lot of time ahead of us and we want to be sure that we're both ready with whatever may come for us, you know?”
“Alright, that we believe,” Moe smiled, patting Ichigo on the shoulder. “I know, maybe you should talk about what it is you're thinking about to Aoyama-kun when you guys meet up later today? Maybe he may have an idea, you know?”
Ichigo sighed softly with her cheeks blushed. “Well yeah, I'll eventually talk to him about it, but I don't want to bother him with it. The regional Kendo championships are coming up so he's been really busy training and getting ready for that big event. I sometimes stop by the gym to see him but most of the time I have work.”
“Well, I hope whatever it is you're thinking about doesn't affect your relationship with him, Ichigo. I mean you guys are like totally in love with each other, you know?” Miwa sighed in bliss, admiring the sweet, young, and definitely budding romance between the nutty redhead and the most popular boy on campus.
The three girls continued their lunch up until their lunch period ended.
School for the day reached its end and it was time for the students to exit to their own worlds. Fortunately for Ichigo today was her day off from her part-time job at Cafe Mew Mew. This can only mean one thing for her. She had a chance to come see her beloved Masaya Aoyama at the gym where their school's champion Kendo team usually train. She said goodbye to Miwa and Moe for the day and proceeded to their own separate ways.
Once she arrived at the gym she quickly noticed her fellow female classmates heading out to the gym. She began to wonder whether she arrived late or did the boys' Kendo practice began early during her final period of class. She had not seen Masaya the whole day or even received any text messages to see if he was going to be busy after school. She thought of calling him right away to see if he was free that afternoon but just as she reached for her cellphone in her pocket she became startled by the loud ringtone.
Quickly Ichigo reached for her cellphone and checked her phone's ID. No doubt about it, she thought. She smiled happily and answered the phone. “Hi Masaya! I miss you so much... I'm so happy to see your name flashing on my cell again!”
On the other end the passionate voice of the most important boy in her life chuckled. “I miss you more, Princess. I just had to call you, Ichigo...”
Ichigo blushed and dashed quickly to the patio area of her school and found her own quiet spot. “How have you been? I was going to visit you at the gym to see you practice for the upcoming championships and all...”
“Oh, the boys' team started early. We just ended right now and I'm at the locker room changing. I can't wait to see you, Ichigo. Where are you right now?”
“Oh, I'm at the patio tables near the gym entrance right now. I was hoping I would catch you once you come out of the locker rooms.”
“Awesome. Just stay there. I'll look for you once I'm done. See you later.”
“See you later, Masaya.” Ichigo hung up and stretched herself backward with a huge smile on her face. Oh God... I feel you watching over me... watching over Masaya... You have no idea how I'm really feeling right now. I feel like I'm in heaven...
A few moments later the tall, handsome, and dashing Masaya Aoyama arrived at the patio area. Just by the soft tinkling of the bell he already knew immediately where his almost bumbling kitten sat. He turned to find Ichigo smiling and waving right then. The bell ribbon around her neck truly served him well.
“Ichigo! There you are!” Masaya approached the table where Ichigo was sitting.
Ichigo quickly stood up to meet Masaya. “Hi, Masaya! I swear, every time I see you every day you get a lot more... alluring... I mean, you still draw a lot more fan girls to the practices and all.” Right then she found her face completely strawberry red. Although she and Masaya were a lot more open to each other as they were officially a couple Masaya always managed to make Ichigo blush more than ever.
Masaya laughed softly at her reaction. “Silly. Want to go to the park for a bit?”
“Sure! I'd love that! Let's go!” Ichigo ran next to him as the young couple headed out to the streets.
After two blocks of walking from the school slowly Masaya reached for Ichigo's hand and entangled his fingers on hers so both are locked to each other. Once again Ichigo felt her face turning red, hoping her uncontrollable cat ears and tail would not pop out at the moment of anxiety. She gazed at herself as they passed by buildings with glass windows just to be sure she still looked human.
“Nervous about something?” Masaya broke the silence with his usual smile on his face.
“I'm just scared that my cat ears and tail might pop out again--- or worse,” Ichigo responded directly, still feeling a lot more nervous. “I thought my powers would just fade away now that the world is safe again.”
“Hm, guess I'll have to do something about that.” Right then Masaya released her hand and placed his arm around Ichigo's shoulder. “There. Then I'll be able to cover you when they do pop out.”
Ichigo chuckled and slowly moved her head against him. “Thanks, Masaya. I swear, this is crazy...”
“Ichigo, our lives before were always crazy. It's really nothing new.”
“You're right, Masaya. Seriously right, you know.” The two young lovers burst in laughter reminiscing about their past and their adventures that led them to where they are now.
Once the two lovers arrived at the park they head directly to their tree where they would usually hang out. For these past few weeks since the final battle the park looked a lot more fertile and cultivated, with more trees, flowers, bushes, and even a bit of the wildlife here and there populated all over the place. The atmosphere seemed to may have reborn from death to life that gave both Ichigo and Masaya a secluded haven they can claim as theirs.
Masaya relaxed against the stocky trunk of their tree, stretching himself after another strenuous training for the upcoming regional Kendo championships. At the same time he gazed out at the air, putting himself in contemplative mode. Ichigo positioned herself to her usual spot and gazed at her love staring out at the air. Immediately she noticed his silent contemplating and began to worry for a bit.
“Is there... something in your mind, Masaya?” Ichigo asked curiously with her voice slightly trembling in nervousness.
Masaya turned his head slowly to her. “I need to talk to you about something and it's very important.” Ichigo gasped with worry on her eyes right away, however Masaya was prepared for this and knew how to react. He leaned to her slowly and kissed her quickly. “Don't worry, it's nothing bad. But I really do want to talk to you and just hear me out.”
Ichigo blushed after the kiss, covering her cheeks at the same time. She answered in return: “Sure thing. What's up?”
He gazed directly towards her and his tone changed. “I've been thinking hard and deep about what's happened a few weeks ago. Even up to now the close call that we had was still running in my mind. I know that the Mew Aqua is still within me and with the abilities that I can do I feel somewhat cursed. I feel like there was something a lot more important that I need to do in order to keep control of myself and anything else happening to the environment. While I was thinking I got a letter from the school and---”
“School? Letter?” Ichigo gulped in surprise. “What... what's the letter about?”
Masaya fell silent at first, wondering how he should tell her about this piece of news. He took a deep breath and continued. “I got an offer from my counselor regarding a special program to study the field I wanted to get in to early on. It's not a lengthy program and all; just around four months or so...”
Ichigo understood where he was coming from in the beginning. She always knew how passionate Masaya is with saving the environment and preserving the endangered species and anything else regarding Earth's nature. “Environmental Science?”
Masaya nodded and took another deep breath. “I accepted the offer, Ichigo. It's a huge opportunity that I can't refuse. I mean I've always wanted to get in to a special program like that while I'm still earning credits to finish middle school and all but---”
“Masaya, congrats! I'm so happy for you!” Quickly Ichigo cheered with a smile on her face and took Masaya in her arms. “You know you rock at everything, especially with school, I totally knew you're going to be moving ahead of everybody one day, you know?”
“Ichigo, wait, I'm not finished,” Masaya answered, still with that same serious tone. Slowly he releasd herself from her but held her hands tight to his. “Listen... about this program... it's... it's not located here.”
Ichigo suddenly fell silent and her smile quickly disappeared. “It's not... here?”
Masaya shook his head. “It's in a private boarding school... in England.”
England...? What? Then that would mean you'll be... Ichigo could not believe her ears at first and thought that he was kidding, but by the look of his eyes and the tone of his voice he was nowhere near. “Masaya... that means you'll be... you'll be out of the country... for a long time.”
“It's only for a short while, Ichigo, I promise.” Gently he held her hands tightly to show her how he still cares for her despite of this long-distance opportunity. “Although I can't say for sure if I'll be officially admitted or not at the moment. I still have to study and take some admissions tests for me or something to get admitted, so from now on I'll be hitting the books and study like there's no tomorrow.”
Ichigo became silent, not because she was heartbroken that they will be separated at a later time, but she wanted to give Masaya the opportunity to let him explain further regarding his decision. “I've been thinking a lot after what happened a few weeks before. I mean... I mean... I've almost lost you, Ichigo, and it would seriously kill me big time if I did lose you by my own hands. I feel like I have to make things right for this wrath and anger that's been lingering within me all this time. Deep Blue also cared about the environment but not in the same way as how we see it. No matter how much we've done to save our world in grave danger I just feel that it's not enough to undo what I've caused...”
“Don't say things like that, Masaya.” Ichigo embraced him tightly to her, with Masaya resting his head on her shoulder for comfort. “You can't always be perfect all the time. Everyone makes mistakes. But you know, after listening to your reasons I can totally see where you're coming from.” Slowly she rested her chin over his head, continuing on holding him tight. “You know, I've also been thinking too about the things that happened and you know I feel the same thing too. Well, not exactly but you get the idea.”
Masaya slowly lifted his head to face her, ready to listen. “What's on your mind?”
“Well, in a way it's like what you said. I also feel like there's something else that I need to do but I can't figure out what that is.” Ichigo gave a slight blush and nervously laughed. “Sounds stupid, huh?”
“No, I want to hear about it, Ichigo. Please...”
“Alright then.” Ichigo sat up quickly and took a deep breath. “You have no idea how much you... changed me... in a way...”
“Changed you? Me? I always felt it was the other way around.” Masaya gave a soft chuckle then quickly ended it.
“In the beginning... well... you're my first love. You still are my love, but you know all that already. I mean, how can I explain it? Everyone in school likes you. All the girls would just fight and kill each other just to get close to you or even just to have a glimpse of your face. I'll admit that I was even one of them, but instead of just admiring you from afar and go crazy just because you've got the highest grades and that you're a champ at Kendo I wanted to to know more about you, what makes you stand out from all the other guys in school. I was really sure that you have something else other than just your good looks, you being awesome at Kendo and other sports, and your high smarts. That day when you asked me to go with you to that endangered species exhibit at the science museum those months ago... it's like... you gave me a chance to let me get to know more about yourself... and you also introduced me to something else I should be aware of. Because of you I felt a huge change, but for the better. You know?”
At that point it was Masaya's turn to cuddle his love in his arms again. Ichigo smiled and rested again on his chest. “Ichigo, you know you don't need to do anything to get my attention.” Softly he lifted a finger and began caressing her cheek. He was unaware that all he was doing at the moment is to make his girl blush even more, but at the same time he knew how much she loves every small gesture he would give her which made him a bit more proud of himself. “I don't want you to feel the need to change just because of me. I fell in love with you because you're you, you know.”
Ichigo lifted her head to face his along with a smile. “I know, but that's not the point. You've taught me many things I wasn't aware of or even pay attention to. You've made me become a better person. Right now I feel that I have to give more than just fighting aliens and monsters with super powers to protect our planet. You've shown me that you don't need to be a super hero to make the world a better place. I've never forgotten the times where you would compare a person saving the environment from a person becoming a better Kendo fighter through practice. It's all about taking your time at your pace... one little pitch at a time...”
“... One match at a time.” Masaya continued from where Ichigo left off.
“That's why I really think you should pursue your dream and do your best to get in to that environmental science studies thing in England. I've got your back when you need it, Masaya, though I probably wouldn't do a good job at it, but I know you can nail those admissions stuff you mentioned earlier because you can conquer any challenge. You've already showed that to me when...” Right then Ichigo faded. She immediately saw flashbacks of her final battle with Deep Blue, which was a memory she did not want to remember at all.
Masaya found Ichigo's eyes staring blankly again. Somehow he can determine what she had in mind and like her he also did not want to remember that fatal day where the two lovers almost lost each other by their own hands. That day happened and now part of their past together. He knew that both of them should leave that day behind. The past no longer mattered to them. The present is what they need to focus this time.
“Shh,” he hushed softly, gently pressing her lips with a finger.
“Let's stop talking...”
“I know what you're about to say, Ichigo. Thank you.”
Ichigo sighed and lowered her head. “I'm sorry for bringing that up. Don't think that I refuse to accept what you plan to do because that would be selfish. I just want to help you make your dreams come true, Masaya.”
Masaya lifted her head so he could see her face. “What about you? I know I'm happy to accept this opportunity but I want to make your dreams come true too.”
Ichigo smiled and shook her head. “You already did, Masaya. You gave me your love. It was the only thing I wished for when I first saw you...”
“Ichigo...” At that special moment he lowered himself to her with his eyes closed and planted his tender kiss on her lips. Ichigo closed her eyes, letting this moment continue while she held him tightly to her, never letting him go.
After a few moments the two young lovers slowly withdrew from each other but still kept their eyes locked on one another at the same time. Ichigo remained smiling towards Masaya yet at the same time she knew that part of her heart did not want to see her love leave her. Nevertheless, she had complete faith in him after seeing how true his words were and had not broken a single promise he made. On the other hand she also knew that it was wiser to not make any promises one cannot keep. Save for the Blue Knight and Deep Blue many months ago Masaya never fibbed to her.
“Do you want to have some dessert or something?” Ichigo asked right away, still remaining her smile.
“Sure.” Masaya returned the smile to her. “Where do you want to go?”
“Oh I don't know... your choice this time. Or we can go to Cafe Mew Mew if you want to. It'd be nice for you to see the rest of the team again you know?”
Masaya nodded with his slight grin. “Cafe Mew Mew sounds good. Your friends are a lot more hospitable than the other ones we've been to. Shall we go?”
“Right on. You lead.” Ichigo chuckled as Masaya stood up first, gently pulling Ichigo up. The two made their way out of the park to a shortcut towards the hot and popular spot of the town.
The celebrated couple arrived at Cafe Mew Mew at the right time when the place was not as busy. They entered the pink and charming spot while being greeted by Ichigo's fellow Mew Mews, the energetically cheerful Pudding Fong and the shy and wise Lettuce Midorikawa.
“Well, well, look who just dropped in!” Pudding giggled and winked at the same time. “It's the two lovebirds!”
Lettuce gave a soft chuckle at Pudding's greeting. “What brings you two here? Enjoying your day off, Ichigo?”
Ichigo chuckled along with Lettuce and waved at the two waitresses. “Well, Masaya and I just want to hang out, dine in with Akasaka-san's awesome cakes, and say hello to you guys, is all!”
“Well what are you two waiting for? We got a lot of empty tables today so claim your spot! We'll take care of the rest!” Pudding exclaimed with anxiety as Ichigo offered Masaya to pick their table. The humble youngster picked the table near not too far from the kitchen door. Once the couple sat on the seats both Pudding and Lettuce came along with them, ready to serve them.
“Hey, it's kinda quiet here,” Ichigo stated, noticing the not very busy atmosphere at the cafe to this day. “What happened?”
“Cram period for upcoming finals time, Ichigo,” Lettuce answered humbly. “In a month or two would be finals period so I'm thinking some students decided to go home and hit the books and be prepared, you know?”
“I guess, I'm not at all worried about it. I just... want to take my time with studying, you know?” Ichigo answered, adding another soft chuckle.
“Well then! Let's get your orders done and we chat later!” Pudding declared and reached for her invoice pad. “What are you two lovebirds having?”
“What's today's special, Pudding?” From out of the blue Masaya asked the question politely.
“For the two of you, Akasaka-san just came up with a very special recipe for a Strawberry Lovers' Cake just earlier today. You two are so gonna love it!”
“Strawberries! Yum!” Ichigo sighed with bliss on her eyes. “I'd like that!”
“Same with me,” Masaya chuckled.
“Any drinks? Like, you know, juice, latte, cappuccino, milkshakes, tea, you know the deal!”
“I'd have a tall mocha,” Masaya answered.
“Strawberry juice for me, you know, to complement the cake! Tee hee!” Ichigo giggled happily.
“Awrighty! I'm on it!” Pudding gave a thumbs up to the two and turned to Lettuce. “You've worked so much earlier today, Lettuce-neechan, so you should take a break for now.”
“Are you sure, Pudding? You don't need any help?” Lettuce asked humbly to her friend and co-worker.
“I'm good, Lettuce. You know I can handle things here!” Pudding winked and dashed to the kitchen to get the couple's orders ready.
Lettuce chuckled nervously and turned to the couple. “Sorry about that. I should be serving you guys---”
“Oh no problem,” Ichigo smiled happily and patted a third chair between her and Masaya. “Why don't you sit down and hang out with us? Is that okay with you, Masaya?”
Masaya smiled in content. “Of course! Please join us, Lettuce.”
“Well, alright, if you guys insist.” Lettuce smiled shyly and sat at the empty chair between the two lovers. “So, how have you two been? I haven't heard much from you as of late, Masaya.”
“I was laying low and keeping myself cool after all the insanity that happened weeks ago,” Masaya answered the bookish waitress's question. “I guess you can say that I was in complete shock that I had to be completely involved with your true mission and I just want to make up for all the damages I've caused...”
Lettuce shook her head and smiled. “I understand how you feel. Even if it's not your fault--- well, entirely that is--- and that you were forced to do something you would never imagine doing you would still feel guilty about it. We were a little worried because we haven't heard from you much. But on the other hand I'm glad you're doing well.”
Just as the conversation was going Pudding arrived with the couple's orders. “Here you go, you lovebirds!” Gently she placed their drinks and dessert on their table. “Enjoy!”
“Say,” Ichigo began, “Mint's not working today? I know about Zakuro being out of town for some live appearance or something but Mint?”
“She'll be late today,” Lettuce answered quickly. “Dress rehearsal ballet recital at her academy. But she'll be here.”
“Right,” Pudding raised an eyebrow with a slight smirk on her face. “Like she'd actually do some work around here---”
“Uh, she didn't mean that, Ichigo!” Lettuce chuckled nervously, slowly standing up from her seat. “Okay, Pudding, let's get back to work before Shirogane-san and Akasaka-san get mad at us for slacking off.”
“Bah,” Pudding snickered. “Shirogane-san's out taking a break somewhere and Akasaka-san doesn't mind us taking a rest for a bit anyway.” She turned to the young couple enjoying their dessert and winked. “We'll leave you two sweethearts alone!”
Lettuce immediately placed her hand over Pudding's open mouth. “Don't listen to her, you guys! I'm so sorry about that--- so sorry!”
Ichigo giggled while Masaya remained smiling in delight. “Lettuce, seriously, you need to cut the apologizing habit or else people will be running over you, you know?”
“So sorry,” Lettuce bowed quickly as she dragged Pudding along with her back to the kitchen, leaving the two alone with their desserts.
“Sorry about that, Masaya,” Ichigo smiled nervously. “You know how they are.”
Masaya shook his head, still smiling. “You're right about Lettuce though. I think she needs to have more courage to stand her ground and instead of apologizing too much. She should also take the smallest of things lightly like they're no big deal.”
“Ah, she'll get over it.” The two continued with their cakes. Moments later Ichigo began a new subject. “So, how's the cake? Akasaka-san seriously rules with baking!”
“I'll say,” Masaya smiled and continued on the cake. “I need to tip him for the cake---”
“That won't be necessary.” Just a few seconds the two turned their heads to see the tall and charismatic part-scientific baker, Keiichirou Akasaka. He approached their table with the usual humble smile on his face. “I'm just happy two you love my newest recipe, is all.”
Masaya slightly bowed his head in respect to the baker. “It's just a small token of thanks, Akasaka-san... you know, for everything.”
Keiichirou waved his head to the boy. “My primary concern is that you and Ichigo are both alright after... you know...”
“Thanks for everything anyway, Akasaka-san,” Ichigo added her statement. “It's weird. It's like, weeks passed and we're still thinking about the final battle. I guess it's one moment that we'll never ever forget.”
Keiichirou nodded in agreement. “Agreed. I can imagine how that can be traumatic for the two of you--- and the rest of the team as well.”
Ichigo shook her head, still smiling. “We'll get through it. I mean after all the madness we've been through with those aliens and their fused chimera anima monsters and me having side-effects from having cat ears and tail popping out at random and... worse...”
“You're right. Well, things have been slow as of late, but here's a good opportunity for us to relax, gradually live back to our usual lives, but the best thing about it is that Cafe Mew Mew will still remain open. We've been doing really well with the cafe itself, with all these customers, tips being given to the best waiting team in town, profits are just increasing big time, we're seriously doing good.”
“I'm glad to hear that, Akasaka-san,” Masaya joined in the conversation. “There's a lot of fond memories made in this place. This is the home of the Mew Mews and at least what we can do is preserve it by continuing the cover up business. After all, there's still bills to pay regarding the project.”
Keiichirou shook his head. “Ah, we're not worried much about the bills. Although I'm wondering what we can do with the surplus earnings we make once we pay out all the bills. Maybe we can donate the surplus to a well-deserved charity.”
Ichigo reacted with a gasp and a huge smile on her face. “Oh I know! How about--- um--- donate the money to like--- saving the endangered species--- like how you and Shirogane-san have been doing all these research for... the project, you know?”
“Well, we do intend to aim for the environmentally-conscious charities but at the same time we prefer to contribute something a lot more worthy than just money. But we definitely have your suggestion in mind, Ichigo. Thanks!” Keiichirou gazed at his wristwatch and looked up at the two. “Well, I better head back to the kitchen now. I've got this really massive, intricate wedding cake that I'm baking for a couple getting married in just a few days and I want to be sure that I get the cake ready and on time.”
Right away the word wedding cake triggered Ichigo's mind but decided to ignore the thought for awhile. “Okay, I'll see you tomorrow Akasaka-san! Good luck with the wedding cake!”
“Thank you for the wonderful cakes, Akasaka-san,” Masaya smiled and waved at the baker.
“Take care now, you two. Don't get yourselves in to trouble,” Keiichirou winked at the two and headed back to the kitchen.
Moments later the couple finished their desserts and Pudding arrived to clean up their table. “The boss says the cakes and the mocha and the juice are on the house, so you two are free to go so you can spend your sweet moments together hugging and cuddling and kissing---”
“Pudding!” Ichigo giggled and hushed the perky waitress. “There's a thing called a curfew, you know? We have to head home afterwards anyway.”
Pudding winked at the two as they exchanged their goodbyes with the rest of the staff present.
Ichigo found herself drifting in to her own daydream world when the term wedding cake still remained in her memory after their departure from Cafe Mew Mew. The couple remained silent since their exit, not because they were giving each other some form of silent treatment. Masaya became curious once he noticed Ichigo's eyes closed and her solemn smile visible while strolling at the sidewalk. Right then he knew she was thinking about something she hoped would happen one day at a later time but he did not want to make any guesses about what that may be.
Wedding cake... I bet that cake Akasaka-san was baking must be both beautiful and tasty. Ichigo's mind spoke within her as she continued to explore her inner thoughts. Gosh, I hope one day Akasaka-san would bake our wedding cake--- mine's and Masaya's wedding cake...
Just at that moment Ichigo saw herself near the gates of her house as she and Masaya were to part their ways home. As the devoted boyfriend he could be Masaya was willing to take her home any day whenever they were free from their personal activities such as kendo practice and the waitress part-time job--- as long as they were alone. Once they were there Ichigo gave Masaya a kiss on the cheek and made her way to the gates when she heard her love calling her back.
Once she heard his voice she turned around and approached him. Masaya walked closer to her and reached for his pocket. Out came a satin-laced box and slowly he opened to reveal a diamond ring with its glory shining against the sun. It was my foster mother's engagement ring, he said, and placed the ring on her finger signifying that he wants to have her hand in marriage.
Right at that moment Ichigo erupted out with giggles and excitement that immediately caused her cat ears and tail to pop out. Quickly Masaya placed his arms around her with his chin on her head.
“Thinking of happy thoughts, Ichigo?” Masaya chuckled as he held her tightly to him.
“Oh!” Ichigo exclaimed with her face blushing in embarrassment. “Well... yeah! I... I was thinking of happy... positive thoughts... about... our life today... well you know what I mean.”
“Well, save those happy thoughts at a later time, okay? Right now, I just want you to take a breath and calm down.” Ichigo lifted her hands and felt her cat ears and tail up and lifted.
“Ack!” Quickly she placed both her arms on her cat ears and tail before anyone else sees them. “Sorry about that... I... I guess I got carried away, that's all.” Ichigo took a deep breath and sighed out a few times up until her ears and tail disappear. “Okay. I think I'm okay now. Sorry about that.” She remained smiling in embarrassment about her short, brief cat moment.
Masaya planted a kiss on her forehead with a smile. “Be careful next time, okay?” He released her immediately and lifted his wrist to look at his watch. “Hey, I almost forgot. I have some books to return to the library today. We still got some time before the afternoon curfew. Wanna go?”
“Of course! You know me! Tee-hee!” Ichigo giggled happily. “Besides, I think I'm gonna go check out some books myself too. I think this is the right time I should listen to Lettuce's advice about books, you know? Let's go!”
Masaya slightly shook his head, still feeling amused at Ichigo's short giggly moment at that time. He lead the way around the street corners to the main streets where the local library was nearby.
Once the couple arrived at the doorstep the library's main display for the moment presented several books about Red Data Animals from all over the world. Ichigo was not a huge library enthusiast herself but the display's title of Red Data Animals immediately attracted her. While Masaya placed his library books in the bin Ichigo dashed to the display booth, gazing at the book covers featuring various animals of the endangered species and close to extinction. One particular book peaked her interest, only because it was one particular subject she became familiar and fused with for most of the year.
“Wow...” Ichigo whispered in amazement as she read the title on the cover. “The Iriomote Wildcat: Its Final Days to Extinction.” She reached for the book and opened the cover. A full-colored artist's rendition of what the actual Iriomote Wildcat appeared to be. She thought about her first date with Masaya almost a year ago when they first visited the science museum to visit the Red Data Animals exhibit when Masaya showed her some pictures and bits of information about the particular critically endangered animal.
This is just sad! There's not even a single real-life picture of this animal. I mean they had to make a painting of it or make a mock figurine of it on a museum display. Not a single photograph. She turned the page to read the first few paragraphs of the chapter when Masaya arrived at her spot.
“There you are,” Masaya greeted along with his signature smile. “Wow, what do we have here? Books about Red Data Animals, huh?”
“Yup,” Ichigo answered, gazing towards him happily. “I just saw the name of the display because... because...” Though she felt free to show Masaya her true feelings about her moments with him at times she felt a little nervous.
“Yeah,” Masaya chuckled. “Our first date. You know if it weren't for that day then you and I would've never...” He trailed off, decided not finish the sentence.
Ichigo nodded with a slight sigh. “Well... it doesn't matter now. We're here... together... and in love... that's all that counts, Masaya.”
“You're right,” Masaya chuckled and turned to the books at the display. “Wow, look at all these books. I wonder if these are new because I've never really seen them at the library bookshelves before. This is awesome!”
“Hey, I got a great idea, Masaya,” Ichigo giggled once the bulb light flashed in her mind. “You know for that overseas program thing you want to get in to? Maybe you can use this chance to start studying about the endangered species, you know? I remember you mentioning---”
“Wait,” Masaya laughed and reached for his bag for the letter he received for the school. “That reminds me of something. The information pamphlet here says that I got other options to submit for admission instead of taking the admissions exams. I almost forgot about that.”
“Like a project or some research paper essay thing or something like that?”
“Yeah, that's right.” Ichigo leaned close to Masaya as the two read what the pamphlet presented. She raised an eye of uncertainty realizing that the pamphlet was not in Japanese.
“Hey--- it's not in Japanese...” Ichigo frowned. “I mean I don't mind but their English is using too many big words I haven't learned yet!”
Masaya laughed and folded the pamphlet. “Of course, silly, we're talking about England here. When I got the recommendation and asked if I wanted Japanese translations of the pamphlets I declined and preferred to use the original material instead. I think it'd help me brush up on my English more once I get in, you know.”
“Well okay, then explain to me what that thing says.”
The affectionate young boy briefly explained what was mentioned on the pamphlet to his curious sweetheart. The admissions program required potential students to submit an alternative for the admissions exams. Students may have a video project where they present a special presentation regarding any subject related to environmental science. They may also write a research paper essay with sources mentioned regarding any subject as well. Another option that students can do is have their teachers or club presidents--- clubs related to environment conservation that is--- write recommendation letters to the program regarding the student's eligibility. There were many options that Masaya can do for passing admissions that his mind was brimming with so many ideas instantly.
“I know you, Masaya Aoyama,” Ichigo giggled and nudged him on the side. “I know you can come up with anything because you know so much about all these environment conservation and stuff like that. And like I said before, if you need any help--- not that you really need it anyway because I never really saw you ask other people for any help with stuff in general--- but again, if you need any help---”
Masaya sneaked a kiss on Ichigo's cheek, knowing directly the point she was trying to make. “You're always priority in my mind, Ichigo. You know that. I'll give you a ring when I need help.”
Ichigo giggled and lowered her head towards the book she picked up. “Cool! I wonder if we can check these books out?”
“What's that you're holding?”
“It's a book about the Iriomote Wildcat.” Ichigo flipped the book to show Masaya the cover. “I don't know what it is that drew me to this book. I guess it's because I feel like I'm... one of them, you know?”
“Mm,” Masaya nodded in agreement with a thought to himself at the same time. You are an endangered species, Ichigo. That's why losing you would be the worst moment that can happen in my life. There will never be any other girl like you...
Ichigo continued on with her explanation. “I don't know. I'm not a huge book reader or anything but after all the stuff that happened I just felt like I can really connect to the Iriomote Wildcat, you know? I want to get to know more about my other half.”
Masaya grinned. “I have a lot of books about the endangered species at home so if you want to borrow them just let me know.”
“That'd be really cool! Thanks!”
The couple searched for a few more books related to the endangered species afterwards. They asked for some advice at the information booth if it was alright for them to check out some books on the display. The information booth permitted them since they had more copies of the same books in stock and can replace them anytime. After some moments of searching around they reached for the booth to check the books out. Masaya checked out about five books about the endangered species and ecology in general. Ichigo had little luck and ended up checking out two books specifically about the Iriomote Wildcat.
“Looks like curfew's nearing, Ichigo. We better head home.”
“You're right. We still got homework and... all of that...”
The juvenile couple made their way on foot back to their neighborhoods. They strolled a little slower this time due to their endless chats with one another. These chats were not the usual chats anyone would hear from a teenage couple because none of them were related to their unending love for each other. From the library to the border of the residential area where the two would split to go to their own ways the engaging conversations all related to the endangered species and habitat conservation that should save animals from becoming endangered as well as saving endangered animals from becoming extinct.
For the very first time Ichigo felt more involved and interested in Masaya's true passion in life. It was not just about the boring science classes anymore. This became a priority issue for Ichigo as a human being unlike the past when she was fighting to protect the earth as a Mew Mew. For the first time in Ichigo's life she finally found her path to her future goals after high school. Was it because of Masaya's influence that made her become as environmentally conscious as him? Was it because that her powers as a Mew Mew was derived from a critically endangered species animal such as the Iriomote Wildcat?
“Wow,” Ichigo giggled happily after they reached the border where they head their own ways home. “That was refreshing.”
Masaya leaned against the wall of a corner house to rest for a bit. He gazed directly at Ichigo who looked a lot more intrigued and excited about their serious conversation than before. “Our earth is very vast at anything you can ever imagine, Ichigo. We're very blessed to live at such a wonderful place as this in general. Our lands and seas provide us everything we need to survive for a very long time and I feel that a lot of the population of this planet are taking our earth for granted. All this pollution and abuse that's going on in our world from something as small as littering our natural habitat, being wasteful by tossing things in the trash when they can be recycled, animals from the wildest spots of the earth being poached and killed for money, not to mention those accidental oil spills from ongoing oil tankers. There's a lot of people around the world who aren't as fortunate as we are because of their poor environmental conditions. Not everyone is able to drink clean water like us here in the urban areas. Not everyone is able to eat high quality food from its fertile soils and healthy poultry because they have none or that these natural sources are heavily contaminated. Not everyone is able to live at stable homes because they don't have the means to purchase or build such a home. The limitations don't just apply to people, but to all other living creatures as well. The endangered species is already proof that one day this entire earth will die out of all living things. Afterwards, what would our earth become? It's impossible to revive all life after death. Not even the power of a mere Mew Aqua crystal could ever revive all life. I can feel all of this inside me and the feeling is not very good.”
Ichigo sighed and leaned against the wall next to him, bowing her head in guilt. “I feel really bad, Masaya. I'd have to say that I'm one of the guilty humans who never had a thought about all this while growing up. I mean, we get all influenced and exposed in to stuff that doesn't really help protect our earth that sometimes it'd be too late to even realize what we're doing to our lands. Right now I just feel like I have to do something a lot more to keep our environment clean and even save as many animals as I can from becoming endangered or worse. I'm really sorry about all this.”
Masaya turned his head towards Ichigo and again provided the same grin. “It's not your fault, Ichigo. What's more important is that you're finally becoming aware of the general problems of the world with the environment abuse, pollution, and the endangered species being on the top ranks. We can only do so much for this purpose but every little thing counts, you know. Just you being aware is a step to actually taking action to this cause. It takes time, Ichigo, but every single second also counts.”
“You're right.” Ichigo became silent, contemplating about the entire afternoon she spent with Masaya from learning of his plans of studying abroad and her open understanding of the world as a whole. A major part of her heart showed overall support of Masaya's newly-found personal goal; yet at the same time the other half of hear heart brought sadness and fear that being apart from Masaya for a few months can bring many possibilities that can affect their relationship. On the other hand, she thought, she and Masaya had gone through so many obstacles--- truly difficult obstacles--- and despite of all that the two youngsters were more in love with each other more than they were the first time their eyes met.
What's four months of being apart from each other anyway? The things we went through in the past were much worse than being distant anyway. Why am I feeling sad about all this? This isn't right.
Masaya quickly realized the short silence coming from Ichigo and gave his concern. “Something wrong, Ichigo?”
Ichigo gasped to reality and quickly turned to her boyfriend. “Oh no! Don't worry about me. I was just thinking about some stuff, you know?” Just so he would not continue to worry for her she added her signature chuckle at the end.
“Are you sure? You know you can always talk to me about anything.” Though he had full confidence in her deep inside he can feel heavily that Ichigo had something somewhat negative in her mind at the same time.
“It's nothing, really!” Ichigo flashed her usual smile. “Don't worry too much about me. I'm a tough cookie, remember?” Right then she flexed an arm, mimicking a bulging man she often saw in the movies and on TV.
Masaya chuckled in amusement. “I'm sorry about that. I can't help but worry about you, you know?”
Ichigo crossed her arms and posed like a caped superhero from the comic books. “You have a superhero girlfriend who truly rocks and seriously rules, Masaya, and don't you forget it! I've spent most of my eighth grade life kicking butt, working hours in manual labor, hunting for unusual aliens out to terrorize our homes, exercise, train, stay up late to catch up with my homework so I can get more time to fight some more, work some more, and bring justice to the environment!” Along with the latter statement she pumped her right fist up high.
“You got love in your heart, Ichigo.” Masaya made his statement while slowly silencing his amusement. “That's why you do all these things. You have so much power bringing happiness, confidence, and positive change to people who truly needed a friend to confide with.” He paused for a moment to think of other things to say for a few moments and continued. “I know because that's what you brought to me since the beginning and I didn't even realize it in the first place. I don't regret every moment I've spent with you since our day at the museum, Ichigo. Every night before I have my shut eye I spend a few moments thinking about you in all aspects. Just the thought of you gave me so much strength that I can just go out there and use that power to do the right things whether they were personal or for the world.”
Actions speak louder than words, as many say, and Ichigo believed in this particular statement. She leaned to him and tiptoed so she could reach his lips. He read her intended action at that moment and lowered his head slightly so she can reach easily for them. Both pairs of eyes closed as they shared this kiss. After a few seconds they withdrew from each other with smiles on their faces.
“Let's head home, Masaya.” Ichigo answered, knowing just one kiss speaks for her answer. “The curfew's coming.”
“I'll bring you home, Ichigo. Besides, it'd be nice to say hello to your folks too.”
“Hee hee!” Ichigo placed an arm around his own as they headed back to the sidewalks and found their pathway straight to her home.
When they arrived at home the two spotted Mrs. Sakura Momomiya outside the house gates having a good chat with the next door neighbor's wife like many typical housewives would do on their spare time. Once Ichigo and Masaya reached the front of the house the two housewives caught them present.
“I'm home,” Ichigo greeted her mother, smiles and everything. The neighbor's wife greeted Ichigo first and signaled Sakura that she had to head home. In that way she can leave the mother and daughter and the daughter's boyfriend have their moment.
“Welcome home, dear,” Sakura answered her daughter with a wink on her eye. “I'm so happy to see you safe and sound--- that is, safe and sound only because you've got your sweetie pie with you!”
Ichigo lowered her head in embarrassment with her face blushing red while Sakura turned to the handsome young man with her daughter. “How have you been, Masaya? Thanks for bringing Ichigo home!”
“How do you do, Mrs. Momomiya?” Masaya bowed in respect to his girlfriend's mother. “It's been awhile.”
“It sure is! I miss seeing you around the house. You should come more often! We need to catch up.”
“Um, Mom,” Ichigo quickly interrupted knowing her mother was about to bring more embarrassing moments about their relationship. “Can you like... not talk about those embarrassing moments about me to him in public?”
Sakura continued on with the conversation, not paying any attention to her concerned daughter. “You should come often and join us for dinner one of these nights, Masaya. You have no idea how our house sometimes gets a little lonely with just Ichigo and me---”
“I mean, seriously! We need more men in this house!”
“Mom!” Ichigo shrieked loud enough to get her mother's attention. “Not in public, please!”
“Did you say something, dear?” Ichigo gave a soft growl in her throat along with a glare.
Masaya chuckled softly and made his statement. “I'd love that, Mrs. Momomiya. Thank you for the invitation.”
“How about tonight? My husband's going to work late again so there's extra room waiting for you---” Quickly Sakura popped the question which even made Ichigo furious in embarrassment.
“Thank you again, Mrs. Momomiya, but my parents and I are actually going out to dinner tonight.” Masaya responded with a slight nerviness within him. “Some other time, maybe?”
“Aw,” Sakura sighed but at the same time understood that even boyfriends in general have to prioritize their own families as well. “Well, you and Ichigo talk amongst yourselves and arrange the perfect night and she'll pass on the update to me, alright?”
“Will do, Mrs. Momomiya.” Masaya gave a humble grin and turned towards Ichigo. “Well, I better get going. I don't want my parents wondering where I've been hanging around as of late and I don't want them having a bad impression about you about it. I'll call you later when I can.”
Ichigo looked up quickly and nodded. “Sounds good, Masaya. If not, I'll see you tomorrow in school!”
“Right on.” Masaya nodded and bowed towards Sakura. “Have a good night, Mrs. Momomiya, and thank you again.”
“Oh, anytime, Masaya,” Sakura slightly blushed in a more motherly way. “You're always welcome to our humble home. Well, I better get dinner ready so I'll leave you two alone. Bye now!” She waved at the two teenagers and headed inside the house.
Ichigo sighed in relief but still feeling embarrassed about the short situation. “Sorry about my mom. She gets all giddy like that whenever she sees you or hears your name. You have no idea how much my mom likes you, Masaya.”
Masaya laughed softly. “That's a definite good sign, that's for sure.”
Ichigo approached Masaya closer, looking up towards him. “Well, I guess you have to go home now. You don't want your parents to wait too long since you guys are going out to dinner and all.”
“I'll call you later. I promise. I don't want you all being sad or anything just because I'm not around.”
Silence fell between the two as if this may probably the last time they would see each other; at least, just for the day. There was always tomorrow, the next day, the following day, and then.
“I... love... you... Masaya...” Ichigo whispered the words as if she was still not confident to say it directly to him. On the other hand, the fact that she was officially Masaya Aoyama's true love still had not hit her just yet despite of all the troubles they went through together from friendship to love.
Masaya heard the faint words and approached her. He placed his arms around her and pulled her to him. He did not want to see Ichigo looking embarrassed in public and whispered to her ear. “I love you, Ichigo.” Along with that he planted a quick kiss on her lips and made his way home.
Ichigo waved as he walked further to his own path until she could no longer see him from the distance. Afterwards she went inside the house with a sigh of slight sadness. Once inside she could hear her mother humming happily while preparing tonight's dinner and made her way upstairs to her room.
She dropped herself to her bed and stared towards the ceiling. Normally she would just lock herself in her room and celebrate her unending happiness with her day with Masaya like a crazed fan girl who just met and spoke to her favorite celebrity idol after a concert night. This time her whole heart did not feel the fire of this happiness after hearing his future plans, most especially with the terms study abroad.
Masaya, you're sweeter than the sweetest candy and you get a lot sweeter every day. I'm very proud of you for pursuing your dreams this early, Masaya, and you know I'm going to support you all the way for it. But why can't my own heart accept your decision wholeheartedly? Would it be because I'm going to be missing you so much when you're gone? I don't want to be selfish by begging you not to go to that program--- not yet anyway--- but I also don't want to be the reason why you end up failing your dream too. God, what am I gonna do? How can I tell you the entire truth, Masaya? I don't ever want to lie to you about my feelings. I've already done so much lying to you when I was still fighting as a Mew Mew and now that our lives are normal again...
Ichigo shook her head, ignoring these inner thoughts and turned herself around. She knew deep within that she had to overcome this negativity that the other half of her heart was possessing. The only problem was how.
“Ichigo! Time for dinner!”
“Coming, Mom!” She got up from her bed and fixed her red pigtails. Afterwards she dashed downstairs for dinner.
According to the final scene of vol. #7 of Tokyo Mew Mew manga, Mint Aizawa mentioned to Ryou Shirogane that months passed since the final battle with Deep Blue at Cafe Mew Mew. I got the idea of filling that “months” gap by writing this fanfic. This particular story is about what Ichigo Momomiya decided to do that got her accepted in the summer program in England so she can be with her true love, as explained in vol. #1 of Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode. Obviously, this is an Ichigo (Zoey) x Masaya (Mark) fanfic. Their love story is one of the reasons why I fell in love with this series.
Comments and suggestions and constructive criticism are strongly encouraged but please, save your “I hate this fic because Ichigo (Zoey) should be with Kish (Dren) or Ryou (Elliot)” comments to yourself because it doesn't really help me improve this fanfic. It also tells me that only tells me that you're as shallow as many of the “Masaya (Mark) haters” out there. Have you “haters” ever thought about those fans of Ichigo and Masaya together (or just Masaya on his own)? Not only that your bashing annoys many of us Ichigo x Masaya supporters, but you're also disrespecting Ichigo x Masaya fans/supporters and both Ikumi-san and Yoshida-san as well. They wrote the original story and the story has already been told. Get over it, please.
I wrote this because I wanted to touch base again on one of the key themes of the series, which was (if some of you noticed) about saving the environment, protecting our wildlife habitat, and most of all, the endangered species. Throughout the series the awareness of the earth's environment was one of the key things that drew both Ichigo and Masaya closer together, not simply because they fell in love with each other for who they were as individuals. I feel that in the manga (as well as in the anime series as well) that the two characters very well connect with each other whenever they talk about this rather sensitive global issue. At first Ichigo may not be as passionate about the issue as Masaya was but as the story proceeded we can see the gradual changes with Ichigo as she spent more time with Masaya. In addition, if you noticed in the manga between the final scene of vol #7 of Tokyo Mew Mew and vol. #1 of Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode, Ichigo's daffy and bumbling personality had faded a little bit and became a lot more serious about herself, not because she wanted to impress Masaya or anything, but her experiences as a Mew Mew truly helped her open her eyes and see what true reality is with the world around her.