Disclaimer: I don't own Tokyo Mew Mew.

Surely she would have been horrified at her own appearance.

Coal black hair was in disarray, yet even that word could not properly express the whirlwind her hair was in. Rather, ever strand on her head yelled in outrage at the dictatorship of her buns hairstyle.

Admitting defeat, the black ribbons fell to the uncaring granite-gray asphalt. Water-logged shoulder-length clumps tumbled past her ears.

Rain fell in icy curtains over her butter toffee complexion. The hot summer sun that had once favored the young girl and lovingly toasted her cherry blossom skin was now an enemy, betraying the princess in search of more tempting flesh.

And her huge brown eyes seemed sad.

So sad...

She tried to cover her feelings in a hard shell of defiance, even toughness, as if she had no qualms about the heavy downpour.

The person observing her thought she was foolish.

So foolish...

So foolish not to ask for assistance. Just like herself. The two girls were stubborn, always trying to assert their self-reliance.

The self-reliance that wasn't always true.

Minto was strong, but now, right now, her one-person audience knew that she was in need of help.

Everything. Zakuro could see everything.

She could see...

The shiver spiraling in Minto's body...

The slight quiver coating her eyelids, sending her rain-tipped eyelashes in an uncertain dance...

The slope in her lips...

The uncaring water slipping down lean ballerina legs...

The goosebumps like braille dotting her skin and...

The tears building in her eyes.

Without hesitation, the older girl strode over to her friend and shielded her with a black umbrella.

Astonished, the young fan of the model looked up at Zakuro with wide eyes. Several stumbling explanations flew from Minto's lips. She didn't need Zakuro's help, she loved walking in the rain... All with a tulip tint in her face, wildly gesturing hands and glances at anything but her friend's face.

"Onee-sama, you're getting soaked!" the distraught young woman finished in a panicked voice.

But she didn't respond to any of these words. Instead, Zakuro caught Minto's chin, pulled it within her eye level, and smiled.

And without hesitation, Minto smiled back.