"What could Shokora and Keiichiro be talking about that it's taking her so long to get back?" Ryou asked, now sitting on the edge of his bed. His foot tapped out an uneven rhythm on the floor.
"Maybe they started talking about the menu again." Ichigo offered, leaning against the wall. "Remember last time they started at it? I don't think they even realized that they had been talking about different pastries for an hour, and they had barely gotten deep into the conversation!"
Lettuce giggled at the over-exaggerated look on Ichigo's face.
"She said she would be right back, though. She may be more of an air head then you sometimes, Ichigo," He made a face back at her sneer, "But she seems pretty fixated on staying close.
Ichigo scoffed. "Oh, don't put this all on her. You can't stand the idea of her being away from you for more than five minutes, either."
"I can't." He admitted. "Every time we have been separated, something bad happens."
Ichigo rolled her head round her shoulders and focused on the stressing man. "Would you like me to go and check to see if she's still alive, Sir Paranoid?"
"I'm going to ignore that comment but yes. Please go and check to see if she's okay." He shooed her out of the room as best he could with one weak arm.
Once the girl rolled out of the room and started down the stairs, Lettuce blurted, "Do you really love her?"
Ryou's brows tapered down to a point. "Ichigo? Yeah, I suppose in an 'I feel responsible for her' way, but-"
"No, not Ichigo." She dismissed with a sharp wave of her hand. "I know you love us Mew's in a special way, but I want to know if you really, Really love Shokora."
Ryou shifted on the bed to face the curious girl fully. "I like to think so. I've never been in love like this, so I wouldn't know. I loved my parents, I love Keiichiro and I love you girls, even when you do something stupid or jack up the plate replacement bill every month. But Shokora, I literally cannot see my life continuing on without her." He ran a hand through his messy hair, smiling faintly. "I can see myself being there during long nights of school, then college, then her family business, offering tea and food, a warm blanket or just a body to hug. If you girls ever defeat Pie and his group permanently, I don't know what I'd do with myself. Yet with her, I can imagine a future.
"And the best part," He said, looking directly into Lettuce's green eyes as his blue ones twinkled happily, "The best part is that she loves me back and wants to be with me and it's one of the most amazing feelings I've ever had."
Lettuce sighed happily. "Oh Ryou, that is one of the most romantic things I've ever hea-"
"She's gone." Ichigo said, standing directly in the doorway, her voice emotionless and cold.
"Gone? What do you mean? She was just here." Lettuce said, a forced, hopeful smile dancing just on her lips.
"She's not anywhere in the café. At all. The Basement, the Kitchen, her room, not even any of the bathrooms." Her voice straining into a panicked whine with each room she mentally relived running through. "She's gone!"
"I'll find her." Ryou said. A sharp stab of pain caused him to hiss as his ribs denied easy movement but he stood up anyway, picking up a large roll of medical gauze and handing it to Lettuce. "Wrap me in this." He ordered and Lettuce complied.
"Oh no." Ichigo warned, standing between him and the door. "You can't go out there. Keiichiro said-"
"I know what he said, Ichigo, I was there. But that doesn't mean I'm going to sit around and do nothing. Never again, not when Shokora's involved." He winced as Lettuce pulled the bandage tight and secure.
Ryou watched as Ichigo opened and closed her mouth several times, until finally she shut her jaw with a determined snap. "Fine." She snipped. "But I'm going ahead of you. Keep a phone near you, I'll have my cell. Whoever finds her first calls the other." And she ran out of the room, no doubt to cover every inch of the surrounding area as fast as she possibly could.
Ryou quickly threw on a shirt, not bothering to button it, slipped into a pair of sneakers and grabbed up his sword from where it rested next to the bed. He stepped carefully down the stairs, leaning heavily on the wall to support himself. Lettuce walked behind him, hands fluttering about helplessly. He stalked through the kitchen, through the café and pushed open the doors roughly.
He continued walking forward but looked sideways at Lettuce. "You should go ahead of me. Same as Ichigo."
Her lips trembled but she stuck her little chin up bravely and ran off, transforming and disappearing into the tree's foliage.
He looked up briefly and noted that the rain was just started to slow into a soft drizzle that would pass in a few minutes.
He started down a path at random, turning anyway he could think Shokora would go down. He twisted down path after path, crossing several intersections more than once. He growled and picked up his pace, eyes scanning as far ahead as they could. Time passed too slowly as he urged his feet to go faster.
Who knows what she's doing? Maybe she just went out for a run, a walk, saw something that reminded her of anything from her past and had to pursue it. Maybe she got mugged and was lying in the trees out of sight, hurt and scared. Maybe she was kidnapped by one of the aliens or worse…
His tortured thoughts were cut off by a yell of pain echoing in the sudden silence. He whipped his head towards the left and looked down the long path where the sound had come from. He changed course and ran as best he could toward the dying sound.
He first caught sight of the lifeless body of Mousse. He approached it slowly and, upon seeing the frozen sneer, he jumped back. He gave the body a wide distance, the smile with the line of still moist blood dripping down the corner causing a chill to climb up his spine. He turned away quickly, sure that the scream had come from someplace very close to-
"Shokora!" He yelled, running full speed now to his fallen love's side. As soon as his hands touched her cold shoulder, the Mew Transformation broke down and swept away from her body, leaving Shokora in just his borrowed shirt and a pair of shorts. He shifted her face towards him and felt a foreboding chill race through his veins at the small line of red that just trickled down from her nostrils. He tried not to move her as he searched her body for any serious injuries, aware that as the seconds ticked by her faint heartbeat grew softer and her breathing failed to start again.
He was on the verge of a panic attack when he noticed the small needle sticking up from her lower back, in line with her spinal cord. He removed it quickly, hoping the damage wasn't as bad as he knew it could be.
Her body jerked as he removed the glass from the sensitive nerve bundles and carefully turned her onto her back, beginning to perform CPR and Mouth-to-Mouth. Her heart beat was a faint flutter in her chest before he started the first manual pump and slowly, coupled with his assisted breaths, her heart grew louder and her body took a deep, choking gasp until she was breathing on her own.
But even as her body began to function again, he knew that their troubles had only begun. Depending on how long her body had gone without oxygen and because of where the needle had struck, she could have anything from permanent brain damage to muscular or nerve damage. All three were life threatening alone and for all he knew she could have any or all.
He dialed a number into the phone he had taken with him and gripped it between his shoulder and ear. Gently, he placed his arms behind her shoulders and knees and lifted her up with only a twinge of pain registering from his ribs.
"Did you find her?" Keiichiro asked immediately, knowing that Ryou was on the line.
"Yes, but she's not in good shape. Be ready for anything. And call Ichigo and Lettuce back to the café." He dropped the phone to the ground, leaving it there without a seconds thought while he rushed as carefully as he could back to the café.
As soon as the pink building came into view, Shokora began to stir. Hope danced in his chest as she tried to open her eyes, pupils dilating rapidly. As he stepped through the doors, handing Shokora into Keiichiro's waiting arms, she was mumbling unintelligibly. They went straight down into the basement and Keiichiro carefully settled Shokora onto a metal table. He swiftly placed wires all over her body, at her temples, at her neck, on her chest, hips and back. He sat down at his computer, fingers attacking the keyboards like never before as he ran diagnostics that Ryou himself barely was able to keep up with.
Instead, he turned his attention to Shokora.
Silent tears streamed out of the corners of her open eyes as she breathed trembling gasps. And she had yet to say an intelligible word.
"Shokora, honey, are you okay? Baby, say something." He begged, grasping her hand.
She took a ratting breath and rasped out, "…Can't…"
His heart lifted at the sound yet chilled at the word. "Can't what, baby? Can't what?"
She slowly tilted her head towards him, the wires dragging along with the movement. "…Can't…Feel…Legs!" She pushed out, the tears streaming faster down her cheeks.
The pain in her eyes registered how truly scared she was and Ryou quickly relayed to Keiichiro what she had said. "Just hold on, baby. Keiichiro will fix it. He'll make you all better." He kept up the soothing babble, calming her along with himself. But as he threw glances back at the monitors, where Keiichiro had created a virtual display of her body, he started to doubt his words.
The electronic body showed her entire lower body, waist down, covered in an angry red. Keiichiro zoomed in on a section on her lower back, where the spine ended, that was glower a dark, menacing, blood red. "What's wrong? Why are her legs-"
"It means that she has no active nerves throughout her entire lower body." He answered, voice dead-panned.
The blood seeped down out of his face. "What does that mean for Shokora?" He asked in a small voice.
Keiichiro turned around and met his eyes. "It means that her spinal cord has been severed," He swallowed a large lump in his throat, "And she will never be able to walk again."
Shokora let out a wheezing breath, a sound that Ryou realized was a choking sob.
"There has to be something." Ryou growled. "Can't we use Mew Aqua or-"
"No!" Keiichiro sobbed, then paused, squeezing the bridge of his nose. "You don't think I didn't think of that? We don't have a high enough concentration that could fix a severed spine. We'd have to have a concentration of one hundred percent and we can not use it to fix Shokora when the world needs it more."
"THE WORLD CAN WAIT!" Ryou roared, jumping to his feet. "She's like this because she was trying to Save the World!"
"I Know!" Keiichiro yelled back and Ryou was momentarily stunned. Keiichiro had never raised his voice that loud in all of the time he had known him. "Damn it Ryou, I know! I've thought of everything! Surgery, biomechanics, nanobots, EVERYTHING! But you Can Not fix a severed spine! You just can't." Keiichiro fell down into his seat and let out a wailing sob, mixed with pure frustration.
"It's...okay..." A small voice rattled out behind him.
Ryou turned back to Shokora and took her hand into his again, ignoring the tears that spilled out of his own eyes.
"I was...prepared for...the risks...when...I signed...up." She said slowly, stopping to suck in a heavy breath each time. "I was...given...another chance...when I became...a Mew. My time's...run out. But," She reached up a quaking hand and wiped away one of his trailing tears, "I have loved...ones here with me...this time." And a shaky smile spread out on her lips.
The girls ran into the room, spitting out question after question at a rapid fire pace, while Ryou coughed out a laugh and wiped away the rest of his tears. "Forever, Baby. Forever."
-Jump Jump to where the series ends (And not that bull poopy "Tokyo Mew Mew A La" BARF that totally degraded the series) -
A soft knock on the door frame woke me from my fifteen minute snooze fest following a rather harsh punishment to the alarm clock. "Shokora, you have to get up hun." Keiichiro said.
"Five more minutes." I mumbled into my pillow, flopping away from him.
He sighed loudly. "Not gonna happen."
It was quiet for a few, loving seconds before the fluffy, warm covers were rudely ripped away from my grasp. "No can do," Keiichiro laughed as I lunged up, grabbing unsuccessfully at the covers he held out of reach. "Ryou said that I had to wake you up by any means necessary and my next try will be with Ice and Water."
That worked, as my eyes focused into a glare at the grinning man with a sharp snap. "Fine, I'm awake. You win."
"Good!" He cheered and started for the door. "I'll see you down stairs then."
I grumbled a few choice words about having no privacy, as I gripped the ends of my pants in one hand and swung my legs over the edge. I frowned slightly, mourning the loss of my legs as I had each morning since the accident. Just as the doctors had predicted so long ago I was now, permanently, paralyzed from the waist down. Sure it was by different means and my sacrifice had at last reared the long awaited end to the battle for the earth between the Mew's and the Aliens, but I was alive and if anything that was something to be grateful for.
I quickly slipped out of my pajamas and into a pair of jeans, left over from the shopping trip, and a black cami, not bothering with shoes and just tying my hair back into a loose ponytail.
I leaned down and gripped the arms of my locked wheelchair and settled in, buckling the safety belt just in case like I did every day. I popped quickly to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and washed my face with a damp rag, before lining my chair up with the chair lift that Keiichiro had kindly installed for me.
Ryou looked up from his position at the sink as I made my grand electric entrance, a smile on his lips as always. "Morning, Sunshine! Did you sleep well?"
"Oh it was heavenly, until I was woken up!" I wheeled over to rest next to him, reaching down to cross my legs manually and quickly striking a grouchy pose. "What could you possibly want at this shameful hour?"
He laughed, grabbing a towel to wipe off his hands. "Shameful hour? It's only Eleven."
"On my day off." I grumbled, trying to keep the frown on my lips but failing miserably as he leaned down to place a soft kiss on them. I smiled but pulled away. "But seriously, why am I up?"
"Don't tell me you don't know what day it is." He asked, true surprise on his face.
"Saturday. And yesterday was Friday." I nodded my head wisely, uncrossing my legs and wheeled over to the fridge.
He stopped me with a firm hand on the back of my chair and took up the push handles. "Oh," he whispered under his breath, turning my chair towards the Café, "This is gonna be good."
I tried to stop his takeover of control on my chair, cursing myself for forgetting to put on my gloves this morning as the hand rims burned my palms. "Ryou," I said menacingly as the door loomed closer, "What are you planning, you-"
The doors swung open before me and I was unpleasantly startled by a loud chorus of "Surprise!" I gripped the armrests, pushing myself back into the chair even as it rolled forward into the chaos. Balloons and streamers of every color clashed with the pink façade that was the Café, tables shoved away to the walls to leave only one long table and one round table at the center of it all. The round table held a mountain of boxes, wrapped in a similarly confusing range of colors. All of the Mews stood before a table covered in a bright tablecloth, plates, cups, hats…?
"Happy Birthday, Shokora." Ryou said in my ear as my brain processed it all. Birthday?
"Oh my god," I whispered, the breath rushing out in one fatal swoosh. "Oh my God." I dropped my head into my hands, humiliated and frustrated with myself.
"Shokora, what's wrong?" Ichigo asked, worry in her words. "Did something bad happen on your birthday? Is it a bad memory or,"
"No!" I said quickly, lifting my red face to look at her. "No, nothing bad happened! I just, you know, forgot." I mumbled the last part, my ears burning a harsh red to match my face.
"You forgot your own Birthday?" Pudding demanded, coming up right into my face, leaning in on the armrests. "How could anyone forget their own Birthday?"
"I don't know!" I blurted. "This past month has been kind of a blur with school, the company, working here, and I kinda lost track of the days, but Never Mind! Happy Birthday!" I shouted, pushing forward out of Ryou and Pudding's grip to get closer.
Before the astounding pile of presents sat a three tier cake, each tier decorated in different swirling and linear designs, with the words Happy Birthday Shokora scrawled on with white icing. "When and where did you make this?" I asked Keiichiro.
"The cake part I made yesterday, but I decorated it this morning when you were sleeping."
I wiped my finger through the bottom tier and popped the frosted finger into my mouth. "Cream cheese frosting! You know me too well." Keiichiro beamed.
The chorus of Happy Birthday began as the Candles were lit up one by one until the room was lit only by the light of fourteen candles. I glowed just as bright, looking at all the faces around me as the song reached an ear splitting crescendo. I laughed as they gave up on harmony and just belted out the last few words.
With a large breath, I blew out the candles in two gushes. They cheered and eagerly I watched Keiichiro cut out a slice and pass it to Ryou. He squatted down next to me and placed the dessert on my lap.
I broke off a piece and put it up to his mouth. "Nope," He said, shaking his head no. "It's your cake, you get the first piece."
"'Kay!" I said and popped the fork into my mouth. "But you can have the second." And with that I pressed my paper plate into his face, smearing the frosting and cake all over his face. I pulled my frostinged hand away from the plate, which hung for a few more seconds on his face before falling away and showing a very messy Ryou. "How's that for 'Just Desserts'?"
He licked his lips, cleaning off a part of the frosting to reveal his cute mouth. "Perfect." He leaned in and placed a sugary kiss on my lips, then rubbed his face against mine.
I shrieked and pushed him away, laughing briefly before I was muffled by another piece of cake being shoved into my mouth. I chew it, enjoying the moist, red velvet cake. "It's delicious, Keiichiro! Thank you so much."
"You're welcome." Keiichiro replied as Ryou playfully licked a spot of frosting from the corner of my lip.
I spun away with my chair and pushed into the empty kitchen, grabbing up one of the towels and letting the warm water run over it. The towel felt heavenly against my face and soon I was completely clear of sticky frosting.
The towel fell to the floor with a wet plop as my hands jerked uncontrollably. No. No, it couldn't be... I slowly wheeled about and faced-
"Kish?" I could barely pronounce the word, my throat closing up around the sound. "Kish." I tried again, panic lacing the word but able to say it better. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I came to see you." He said flatly, eyes locked on my chair. Why did he look so sad? What right did he have to look sad?
"Well, you've seen. Now you can run on back to Pie and tell him all about how his once great experiment has been reduced to a half cripple." I hissed the words, trying not to alert the others in the next room. But it was hard, even as he continued to stare at my chair with those...
"Are you crying?" I asked, dumbfounded.
He turned in the air, hiding his face as his hands scrubbed his eyes. "None of this should have happened. None of this would have happened if you had just stayed. Stayed with Me!"
I shhed him, grabbing his arm and pulling him down to me so that I could clasp my hand over his face. "You need to quiet down if you want to talk to me because, buddy, this is the last chance you're ever going to get. Got me?" He nodded. "Good. Now, have you ever heard of the saying if you love someone, let them go? Let. Me. Go. I wasn't ever yours and I've found someone to love me who makes me happy. I'm happy. I have a family. I have a life that revolves around me, not pleasing someone else. I have a family business that is prospering more than ever that will pretty much keep me in a job for the rest of my life. I don't have legs but I can move. I don't have a blood family but I have one in my heart. I may never, you know, know what it's like to be with a man. But the doctors say that I could have a child with the right kinds of therapy. It's not the same but it's a future. And what did we have?"
Kish snatched my hand away from his mouth and clasped it to his chest. "Eternal happiness, love forever, life without change. We could have been immortal!"
"I don't want immortality. I want to grow old and start a family. I want to raise a child that will need me, learn from me and for a few years hate me maybe. Whatever it takes, I just want it my way for once." I took my hand from his grip and wheeled backwards. "So you need to leave me alone, go home to where you're from and just forget about me."
"But we were meant to be! You still have my DNA in you, I know it!" He came closer, hovering threateningly over me.
I stared back into his angry eyes, cool calm creeping through my veins. I reached down and unbuckled myself from the chair and slowly raised myself up from the chair, allowing the weighted hold of gravity to release my body until I was dangling a foot higher than Kish. My legs hung awkwardly below my waist but I kept his attention on my eyes. "Yes. I still have your people's DNA, but only I can say who I am, not what I'm made of. Now I suggest you leave, before I make you."
He stared, dumbstruck for a few seconds before he phased out, just like that, leaving me alone and four feet high up in the air.
I stayed up in the air for a few more moments, just breathing and calming myself down when Ryou gently pushed open the kitchen doors and approached me. I stared down at him, unable to feel as he took ahold of my wrist and guided me down and into his arms. And there we stood, him cradling me to his chest as the tears, of sadness and relief, silently slipped down my cheeks.
"Does this mean it's finally over?" I asked, my voice a whisper.
"No. This means that it's finally begun."